FORT WORTH, Texas — Bubba Wallace won the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, which marks the opening race of Round 2 in the NASCAR Playoffs. Here’s what you need to know:
- Wallace had an average speed of 188.337 mph to earn the second pole of his career in 213 starts. He also won the pole at Michigan last summer, when he finished second.
- The timing was excellent for the 29-year-old since he’ll start from the No. 1 spot after advancing to the second round of the playoffs.
- This fall marked Wallace’s first career playoff appearance. He grabbed the 16th and final playoff berth late last month at Daytona, then overcame a 19-point deficit last week at Bristol Motor Speedway to survive the first cut.
- Wallace drives for the 23XI Racing team co-owned by Michael Jordan and driver Denny Hamlin.
The Athletic’s instant analysis:
Expectations for Wallace on Sunday
Wallace’s path to the second round of the playoffs is going to be a challenge with him already 14 points behind the provisional transfer line to begin with and in a round with two tracks, Texas and the Charlotte Roval, not among his best. But his winning the pole on Saturday bodes well for his chances to get a good result on Sunday. And if he can do this, then follow up with another top 10 effort next week at Talladega — one of his better tracks — Wallace advancing to the semi-finals round takes on a much more realistic complexion.
Of course, this is easier done than said. Especially with the possibility that Sunday’s race could be attrition-filled and just finishing may be a challenge. But having shown speed in qualifying, it’s evident that Wallace has a chance to take a big step toward erasing the points hole he’s in. — Bianchi
Can Wallace win at Texas?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves too much. Wallace clearly has a fast car and is highly motivated, but he also only has two career top-15 finishes in eight starts at Texas. His lone top-10 finish, an eighth-place result, came in the spring of 2018. “It’s nice for a moment,” Wallace said of the pole, “but (Sunday) is the real job.” — Gluck
How are the playoffs going for Wallace?
After he scraped his way into Round 2 last week, the emotional Wallace fought off tears of both joy and relief. He bristled at NBC Sports analyst Kyle Petty calling Wallace “fragile” mentally before the regular season finale, but also acknowledged he was thinking negatively Saturday about not choking away his qualifying lap right before he took the green flag. “That’s my problem with life,” Wallace said. “I need to stop overthinking things. I just need to go out and do.” — Gluck
Who are the other threats for the Texas win?
Kyle Larson of Hendrick Motorsports looked quick in practice and qualified 11th. Hamlin, who won at Bristol last week, also appears to have good speed but slipped on his final-round qualifying lap and will start 10th. — Gluck
NASCAR’s playoff system starts with 16 drivers, then cuts four each round (down to 12, eight and four) until November’s championship race in Phoenix. The highest finisher among the four remaining playoff-eligible drivers is then declared the series champion.
(Photo: Chris Graythen / Getty Images)