By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
Halfway into the season, Bubba Wallace is a championship contender, just not where one may think.
With support from Domino’s and Sunoco, Wallace is competing in the BoJangles Summer Shootout Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 0.250-mile frontstretch oval every Tuesday night for Chris Rogers. His No. 76 Legend Car has not finished outside the top-five in the four races he has competed in.
Plans for Wallace to compete weekly at the Summer Shootout date back to February. With a team needing a new driver, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver made a few calls and jumped back into a Legend Car.
Returning to his racing roots, Wallace has found competing in the Summer Shootout to be therapeutic.
“It’s good to be back at the Summer Shootout at Charlotte and relieve some stress,” Wallace said. “I guess it’s therapeutic. I need it with the state of mind I’ve been in the past couple of months. For me, I need to race more to get over the hump. It doesn’t make sense, but it works. It’s just fun.
“I’ve had my Legend Car since I was 12. I’ve always said for the last five or six years that if certain people got out, I’d be back. They got fired and I’m back, so that’s fine.”
Wallace missed the first round of the Boston Reid Real Estate Pro Division after the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway was delayed to Monday, June 10. With the lowest scoring week dropped for each competitor, the NASCAR driver actually sits on top of the points standings.
The 25-year-old won round four after a late caution gave him the opportunity to move Carson Ferguson’s Ladyga Motorsports machine for the lead. After celebrating on stage and in victory lane, Wallace moved the celebration to the grandstands. There, he tossed merchandise to the fans, similar to the football during rain delays at Daytona International Speedway and Michigan.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Wallace admitted. “We got up to fourth or fifth pretty early. I was watching the 48 (Ferguson) pull away again. They’ve been fast. It’s kind of an ego thing between Ladyga and myself. We both see each other on Sundays. We’ve been parked next to each other for years up here in the Xfinity garage.
“It’s a little bit of a rivalry going on. Once the caution came out, I had started laughing. The same thing happened to him (Ferguson) last week. I was just one spot back. The 87, Miller, got a really good restart, so I just sat back and enjoyed the show. He moved the 48 out of the way diving off into three and got excited underneath him.
“My man, he was excited to be leading here. I was just going to let him overdrive the corner and he did that, and I was able to get by.”
Round three saw a similar move that left Wallace third behind Ferguson and race winner Ryan Mackintosh.
Wallace finished second in round five after he lost brakes and spun Joey Padgett with two laps to go. He settled for second, not wanting to ruin the night for Ferguson, who had led every lap of the race to that point.
Following Wallace’s lead in returning to his racing roots, William Byron practiced his Legend Car prior to the fifth round. However, he did not compete on track.
Wallace was unsure who would come back to compete in the Summer Shootout.
“I don’t know. (Ryan) Blaney and I have talked about it. I have my car back at home just sitting there with dust on it. I’ve talked about running the Winter Heat with Blaney. We might dust it off there, but I don’t know about the Shootout. We for sure wouldn’t make the Shootout with the condition my car is in. But, who knows, it’s about connections. Byron still has a connection out there.”
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