NASCAR: Bubba Wallace holds a unique record he wants to get rid of

Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Bubba Wallace has two career NASCAR Cup Series playoff victories without ever having qualified for the postseason.

In each of his first two NASCAR Cup Series seasons with the Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan-owned 23X Racing, Bubba Wallace has won a playoff race. He found victory lane at Talladega Superspeedway in 2021 and at Kansas Speedway in 2022.

However, the 29-year-old Mobile, Alabama has never qualified for the playoffs in his Cup Series career, making this somewhat of a unique record he’d ideally like to end this year.

The playoff battle is already heating up, with nine different winners in the season’s first 12 races vaulting themselves to the top of the provisional 16-driver playoff picture.

With so many winners, NASCAR Cup Series playoff spots are going to hard to come by on points, if not impossible.

Yet despite somewhat of a rough start to the year, the winningest non-playoff driver in Cup Series playoff history finds himself just six points below the cut line after matching his season-best finish of fourth place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with another one this past Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway.

“I think it’s definitely a different trend than last year,” Wallace said of the complexion of the playoff picture. “But it would ease a lot of our minds if we can go ahead and get that win early. We seem to be a win in the playoffs type team – when we’re not even in the playoffs!”

Last year, Wallace did, in some respect, get playoff experience, however. With Kurt Busch sidelined with concussion-like symptoms following his qualifying wreck at Pocono Raceway, 23XI Racing decided to move Wallace from his usual No. 23 Toyota to Busch’s No. 45 Toyota for the playoffs.

Despite Busch’s absence, the No. 45 team was still in the owner playoffs, thanks to his victory earlier in the year at Kansas Speedway.

23XI Racing felt that Wallace gave the No. 45 team a better chance to advance in the owner playoffs than Busch replacement Ty Gibbs, a full-time Xfinity Series driver with very little Cup Series experience at the time, did.

The move paid off, as Wallace, behind the wheel of the No. 45 Toyota, won at Kansas Speedway in the round of 16 to send the No. 45 team to the round of 12.

So while Wallace himself wasn’t competing in the playoffs, he was the No. 45 team’s representative, and he made the most of that opportunity to gain postseason experience.

If he can actually get to the playoffs this year himself, Wallace believes he can be a contender.

“If we can get there beforehand, I think then we’ll be really strong when the playoffs do come,” he said. “But I think a win is what it’s going to take to get locked in.”

As far as where Wallace feels he and the No. 23 team can win, there are a number of possibilities, given their recent strengths.

“Darlington is really good,” he said in the build-up to this weekend’s Goodyear 400. “[The Coca-Cola] 600 I’m really excited about for sure. Nashville was really good for us last year. The mile-and-a-half stuff for us has been really strong.

“At this point a year ago, we just couldn’t seem to get out of our own way. And so now that I think that we have everybody pointed in the right direction, I think that’s very beneficial for us to go out and get that win early in the year.”

Last year’s results in these races don’t quite illustrate the speed he had.

“I’m excited for Darlington,” he continued. “As tricky as this place is, we were having a top 10 run going a year ago, then got wrecked out there in front of us. And then we finished top 10 at Darlington in the fall. We have the speed, and I think we’ve made good strides to be even better than where we were at. So I’m excited.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for us just to continue this momentum that we’re on right now. North Wilkesboro will be exciting to see, but then the 600, we had a lot of speed there last year, and got caught up in somebody else’s mess. That ruined our day. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and just take baby steps to get to where we need to be. But we’re knocking on the door for sure.”

Next. All-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list. dark

Sunday’s Goodyear 400 is set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 from Darlington Raceway beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET. If you haven’t already done so, begin a free trial of FuboTV now! Also be sure to check out the special promotion Dr. Pepper is running on Wallace’s No. 23 Toyota this weekend.