NASCAR: Bubba Wallace’s best chance to make the playoffs?

Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images)
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images) /

Bubba Wallace’s best chance for his first career NASCAR Cup Series regular season win might just be in this Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace appeared to be on his way to winning last year’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway and thus securing his first career NASCAR Cup Series regular season victory and first career trip to the playoffs.

But on lap 175 of 200 around the four-turn, 2.0-mile (3.219-kilometer) Brooklyn, Michigan oval, when he entered the pits as the race leader, the jack came down while the No. 23 team was changing right side tires.

Wallace, who led 22 laps from the pole position, had to settle for second place and ended up missing the playoffs for a fifth time in five seasons as a full-time driver.

Now the Cup Series is back at Michigan International Speedway one year later, and Wallace still has zero career regular season wins to his name as the end of his sixth regular season approaches.

But this time around, Bubba Wallace enters the race 54 points above the playoff cut line and in position to potentially reach the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs for the first time.

While 54 points may seem like a decent gap to the cut line, keep in mind that that cut line can easily move up if more new winners emerge over the course of the regular season’s final four races, a likely scenario considering the fact that three of those four races are what you might consider “wild card” events.

The series is still scheduled to visit Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Watkins Glen International for two road course races, and Daytona International Speedway is set to end the regular season with a typical drafting/superspeedway pack race that anybody can win.

Suffice it to say that Wallace is far from safe, and winning is his best bet to locking into the postseason. While he has never won a regular season race before, he did win races in both 2021 and 2022, so it’s not as if he is still searching for his first career victory.

FanDuel Sportsbook, which is offering fans an instant $100 simply for placing a single $5 bet on any driver, lists Wallace at +1400 to win Sunday’s race.

Considering Wallace’s success at this track at year ago and 23XI Racing’s continued improvement across the board in their third season in the series and second as a two-car team, +1400 odds on the driver of the No. 23 Toyota should be considered great value this weekend.

As for the overall championship, FanDuel views Wallace as a toss-up to get to the playoffs, which is fair. He is listed as the 16th favorite to win the title at +6500.

As stated, a 54-point lead over the cut line certainly does not make Wallace comfortable, and with half of the remaining races being road course races, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him move closer to the cut line — perhaps even below it — if he doesn’t win this weekend.

Wallace has historically not performed well in courses with both left and right turns, with just two top 12 finishes in 23 career starts. It could come down to the regular season finale, which is why his best bet is to erase all doubt and win this weekend at what was arguably his best track in year number one of the Next Gen era last season.

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USA Network is set to broadcast the FireKeepers Casino 400 live from Michigan International Speedway beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET this Sunday, August 6. If you have not already had the chance to begin a free trial of FuboTV, do so today!