Filling in for the injured Aric Almirola, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. made his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Michigan International Speedway. He qualified the No. 43 Smithfield Ford 27th and got a quick start in the race. After jumping up to 20th on the start of the race, he settled into the 28th spot and radioed that the car had no grip. Debris brought out the caution on Lap 8, and the team stayed out knowing the Competition Caution was coming up.
Wallace held the 24th spot when the Competition Caution came out on Lap 27. He told the crew the car was struggling with front grip and needed more security in the rear-end. Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer called for a four-tire pit stop with an air pressure adjustment. The team restarted 30th, and Wallace got to work getting back through the field. He steadily passed cars until the end of the first stage and finished 21st.
The team continued to work on the car’s handling with more air pressure adjustments. The No. 43 Smithfield Ford restarted 23rd, and Wallace worked up to the 20th spot nine laps later. By Lap 100, teams began green-flag pit stops. Blickensderfer called the No. 43 down pit road on Lap 108 for a fuel-only pit stop. When the field shuffled back out, Wallace held the 20th spot at the end of the second stage. Still needing some turn in the front, the team changed four tires, made an air pressure adjustment and fixed the right-front fender that had some damage.
The Smithfield Ford restarted 22nd for the final stage. A caution 23 laps later allowed the team to pit for four tires and restart 20th. Loose into the corners, the team made a two-tire stop during a Lap 181 caution to gain track position. The final 15 laps saw two cautions and gave Wallace the 12th spot on the final restart, which proved chaotic as cars went four and five wide. Wallace finished 19th in his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start.
“It was a lot better than last week for sure,” said Wallace. “I just didn’t get all of it on restarts and what I thought was aggressive, going back to the XFINITY side I am one of the aggressive ones, but you have to be 10-times more aggressive here at least. It is a learning curve. It was a solid run all day. I knew we would run a lot better than where we started; it was just a matter of getting around those guys, getting track position and clean air. The restarts were wild at the end. We should have ended Top-15, but I didn’t have my guard up enough. Top-20 is good. I am pumped up a lot about that. I didn’t speed on pit road, and I am proud of that. It was all good.”