INDIANAPOLIS — Bubba Wallace knows the pressure. He understands it. But he also has several people in his corner that have thrived in these moments too. 1998 NBA Finals. Game 6. Chicago Bulls vs. Utah Jazz. Michael Jordan hits a jumper near the free throw line to seal the Bulls’ 6th NBA title.
That same player is one of Wallace’s bosses. Wallace wants to emulate that moment at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Sunday’s Verizon 200 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, IMS Radio Network). He sits marred deep in the playoff standings. He enters 21st in playoff points (-236) from the cutline with only 5 races remaining in the regular season.
He has to win. There’s no other real path to making the postseason. For a driver that’s improving (2 straight top 10’s) on the season, he knows that he has to score his 2nd career Cup Series win in the next 5 weeks.
So, why not here? Why not in Indianapolis?
Toyota’s trying to improve their road course program with this new Cup car. Wallace is taking improvement in his own hands by running Saturday’s Pennzoil 150 Xfinity Series race. He’ve never been a strong road course racer so he’s decided to enter his 2nd NXS race of the season.
Both are on road courses.
How much does the new car change the cap with learning anything in an Xfinity Series race. The new car has a different transmission. It’s not the H pattern. The Xfinity Series is. The Cup Series uses a sequential shifter. How much does that throw him off now in jumping between the two cars?
“You know, actually I realized that,” he told me on Saturday morning from Gasoline Alley. At COTA no, I think everything was still new and you’re getting used to it. But at the same time when I was growing up, I did legends cars and late models, which is sequential and H pattern. So I was kind of used to it. But jumping in yesterday, was like I was totally different just from the whole feel of it. But it’s fun. You’re racing.”
“The biggest thing I look for is visualization. Like braking markers and stuff. So you kind of leave the feel out of it. Some things you feel for but certain things that won’t mess you up.”
It worked in COTA. He had a top 10 car back in March in the Xfinity Series. Can he take a win on Sunday here?