By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Pressure in the world of sports is anything but new, but for Bubba Wallace, he’s facing intense pressure that’s already exceeded last season’s rookie campaign heading into the 12th race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
Wallace currently sits 28th in points, 131 points behind Erik Jones, who holds the 16th and final playoff spot, and just 35 points ahead of 31st place Matt Tifft, the lowest points driver who’s competed in all 11 races.
Luck hasn’t been on the Mobile, Alabama native’s side either, with only two top-20 finishes, highlighted with a 17th-place result at Martinsville.
Prior to qualifying 12th for Saturday’s Digital Ally 400 at Kansas Speedway, his frustrations were visually evident during Friday’s breakout press conference.
Whether it’s on or off the track, he stated that his mentality was rather gloomy.
“The mental game has been cloudy,” said Wallace. “We just show up next weekend.
“It’s been a rough moment for a while. The fans and family help a lot. I’m just trying to do everything I can.”
The 25-year-old sophomore driver is known to be his own worst critic due to his undeniable competitive nature, but his schedule has taken its toll. Wallace commented that he hasn’t had time seeing his Richard Petty Motorsport team to debrief on their performance, which has frustrated him lately.
“I have been traveling all over. I went straight to LA after Dover, so I haven’t been to the shop in two weeks,” Wallace explained. “I hate it for my guys. It kills me not being there, but I’ll get to look at it next week.”
Despite little to celebrate this season, Wallace saw a small positive outlook after finding out he’s currently fifth in the All-Star Fan Vote, where the highest voter that didn’t advance from the Monster Energy Open gets the final spot to compete in the Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway May 18. As of Thursday, Matt DiBenedetto currently leads the fan vote.
“Thank you for the support,” Wallace on the fans who’ve voted for him thus far. “Hopefully we can make it in, but we have a lot of work to do to be competitive.”
Following up his comment, Wallace said he hopes he can race his way in to showcase that he belongs in NASCAR’s highest level after being asked if the pressure of not having Chase Elliott, who earned an All-Star race berth after scoring three Cup wins in 2018 and recently at Talladega two weeks ago.
From a sponsorship standpoint, Wallace has had his share of ups and downs, such as the departure of Click n’ Close and STP scaling back on their support, he has World Wide Technology in his No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, which means a lot to him.
WWT’s ties with NASCAR has exponentially grew after recently signing a multi-year deal as the new venue naming rights at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois, which is now known as World Wide Technology Raceway.
“Yeah they are in-house this weekend,” said Wallace. “They have done a lot for me and jumped on board as a new partner in the sport. They really took a huge investment and dive into this crazy sport; it means a lot. It seems like they are in for the long haul, which is what we need.”