Wallace entered Wednesday’s race 19th in the series standings, already an improvement over his previous two full-time seasons, where he ended the year in 28th. He’d already matched his season-best total of three top-ten finishes, most recently a 9th at Indianapolis, two rounds ago. The week also saw him welcome new sponsorship from Cash App, and a neon green paint scheme will debut Sunday as part of a five-race deal, kicking off a multi-year agreement with the company.
For the All-Star Race, Wallace would again run with sponsorship from World Wide Technology, who had contributed funds to the Petty family’s charity Victory Junction. Like the rest of the field, his car would carry a new look with WWT’s logo occupying a larger part of the doors, the #43 made smaller and placed just in front of the rear wheels.
Recent events had brought even more attention to Wallace, who by Wednesday was the clear frontrunner to win the “Fan Vote” that would transfer him from the Open to the main event. That is, if he needed to fall back on it – Wallace had raced his way into the event just last year, edging Daniel Suarez in a dramatic finish. He’d also finished 10th when the Cup Series ran their 500-lap event on May 31, and drew the 6th spot in the field of 21. There were originally 22 cars on the entry list, but Motorsports Business Management, whose driver Timmy Hill had been slated to start 17th, had withdrawn earlier in the week.
Drawing the 21st and final starting spot was Corey LaJoie, driver of Go FAS Racing’s #32 Trump 2020 Ford. After engines fired, however, the tail end of the field began to change. While no drivers incurred pre-race penalties, Joey Gase, who inherited 17th from Hill in his #51 Red Rock Secured Ford, needed a push off pit road. By the time the field took the green flag, Gase was now in the 21st spot on the inside line, trailing new 20th-place J.J. Yeley in the #27 Greenlight Debit Card Ford (drew the 13th spot) and 19th-place Quin Houff in the #00 Permatex Chevrolet (who drew 16th).
The racing proved particularly physical at the start. While Gase remained in the last spot, 10th-place Matt DiBenedetto was routed out of the groove and into the outside wall, damaging the right side of his #21 Menards / FVP Ford. Tyler Reddick, the 5th-place starter, nearly spun his #8 Food City Chevrolet, and ultimately suffered damage to his right-front corner. Both remained in the Top 10 as Gase caught teammate Garrett Smithley on Lap 7, putting Smithley’s #53 Chantz Scott Auto Group Chevrolet into the last spot. By Lap 15, Smithley was 13.7 seconds back and about to be lapped. He managed to stay on the lead lap on the 18th circuit, when the caution came out.
During the same opening stint, Wallace had climbed to 3rd and was in a tight battle with polesitter Michael McDowell in the #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford. At one point, Wallace nudged McDowell up the track and completed the pass, but soon had McDowell in his rear-view mirror. Coming down the backstretch, William Byron had also closed in on McDowell, his #24 Axalta Chevrolet on McDowell’s left-rear as McDowell’s left-front was on Wallace’s right-rear. Contact was made between all three cars. McDowell turned Wallace hard into the outside wall as Byron spun McDowell to the apron. McDowell made it to pit road with heavy damage to his left-rear, but Wallace climbed from his destroyed #43, done for the day. He immediately took last from Smithley, who finished 16th.
As the race resumed, pieces of the nose from Wallace’s #43 were seen sitting near the rear gate of McDowell’s hauler. Wallace was seen putting the debris on the lift gate, and McDowell’s crew was seen taking it away and placing it near some garbage cans. Ultimately, McDowell’s crew was seen putting the debris in their hauler. McDowell finished 7th.
Byron went on to win the second of the race’s three stages, leaving him 19th ahead of 20th-place finisher Aric Almirola, who took Stage 1 in his #10 Smithfield Ford. Gase dropped to the apron in the final laps with what the team reported were brake issues, but were officially listed as handling issues. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Houff, who was two laps down after DiBenedetto won the final stage. Clint Bowyer won the “Fan Vote.”
*This marked the first time the #43 finished last in the Open race for the All-Star Event. The number has finished last in the main event three times: Bobby Hamilton on May 17, 1997, John Andretti on May 20, 2000, and Bobby Labonte on May 19, 2007.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
21) #43-Bubba Wallace / 17 laps / crash
20) #10-Aric Almirola / 35 laps / won stage 1
19) #24-William Byron / 70 laps / won stage 2
18) #51-Joey Gase / 76 laps / handling
17) #00-Quin Houff / 83 laps / running