One week ago, Bubba Wallace, Jr. said that he was just “going to get out of the regular guys’ way” during the inaugural Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway (NC). However, on Sunday night at the Last Great Colosseum it was the regulars getting out of Wallace’s way on his way to winning the 100-lap Super Late Model feature.
“This is good. First time for me in 11 tries. That shows my track record here,” said the NASCAR XFNITY Series driver who was previously winless at Bristol. “This is a really cool event. CRA, CARS, I’m all new to this series so everybody involved in this deal. Thanks to Jerry (Caldwell) and everyone here at Bristol for putting on a great night for us. The weather is always hit or miss here, but it held out for us and we were able to get the checkered flag.”
Wallace started the race from the sixth starting spot and made his way towards the front during the early stages. He took the lead from 14-year-old Chandler Smith with a bold, three-wide move through lapped traffic on lap 34 and held it throughout the final 66 circuits.
After a break at the lap 51 mark, Wallace opened up a big lead during the second segment before Jake Crum was able to close the gap in the final laps. When the checkered flag waved, the gap at the line was just 0.097 seconds.
“We were just kind of taking care of (the car) there. I’ve raced with Jake growing up since I was nine, so I knew he was going to give me a shot there at the end but it was good,” Wallace said.
“Freddie (Kraft) up there, my spotter, did a hell of a job; he was letting me know and I was able to manage (the gap). I actually got a little tight unexpectedly off of turn four and he was able to close the gap pretty big.”
At the end of the night, Crum was ecstatic to finish second at Bristol, but was also left wondering about what could have been.
“I think we had him. If that was coming to the white, we definitely would have had him,” Crum told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I got a good run off of four and got beside him. That’s just normally how it goes, you run out of time and run out of tires. It’s always something, you run out of something. I just gave it all I had and just came up short.”
Saturday’s qualifying race winner Chandler Smith, Southern Super Series points leader Stephen Nasse and Stephen Wallace, a former UARA winner at Bristol, rounded out the top five.
Wallace, who piloted the No. 6 Fat Head Racing car this weekend at Bristol, enjoyed his return to his short track roots.
“This was a really fun couple weeks,” he said. “I came here to test last week and I think I was still catching my breath coming into this weekend. These things are just so fast around here and we were on a rail tonight.”
For Wallace, the race was also special because it was a first-of-a-kind moment for him and his girlfriend.
“I got my girlfriend here and she’s had a horrible track record,” Wallace stated. “Her best finish is sixth in XFINITY, so I’m glad she’s here to see me win. I always have to tell her, “I won this race back in the day,” and now I finally got one in front of her.”
Race fans can find on-demand Trackside Now coverage of Sunday’s inaugural Short Track U.S. Nationals by clicking here.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos
Short Track U.S. Nationals Super Late Model Unofficial Results
Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) – May 21, 2017
|31||29||Tommy St. John|
|34||7G||Weston Griffith Jr|