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NASCAR at Phoenix: Did crew chief cost Bubba Wallace a top 10?

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When the owners of the Bubba Wallace team Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin look back on what happened to Wallace on Phoenix Raceway Sunday, Monday’s showdown may not be too pleasant. That’s because crew chief Mike Wheeler took on the calculated risk that came back almost immediately.

Running the P10 when caution came out on lap 263, Wheeler left the No. 23 Camry on the track when most of the leaders came in for fresh tires. Wallace would run the field green, taking the inner line to restart. To say he fell like a stone would be an understatement because Wallace dropped out of the top 10 11 laps after the yellow came out.

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Bubba Wallace had a good time while …

Bubba Wallace he hung around the top 10 for most of the final phase and looked like his first top 10 was in sight. His best finish to date was the P17 in the Daytona 500, and since then nothing seems to be going right. Three consecutive top-20s followed, and the Phoenix Raceway proved to be his best trip of the year.

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So did Wheeler’s call change anything? Bubba Wallace didn’t help his goal when he chose an inner strip with 17 laps on the tires. He turned them over and made contact with Joey Logano, losing an advantage in the feet of the waving green flag. It only took five laps to fall out of the top five, and in the end he will eventually finish P16 behind race winner Martin Truex Jr.

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While Bubba Wallace was the best ending so far, it doesn’t remove the pain of knowing it could have been a lot better.

Posted March 15, 2021, 5:07 AM IST


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