Bubba Wallace made another emphatic statement on Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 23 McDonald's Toyota Camry for 23XI Racing is not an also-ran just content with making it into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
No, not at all.
On Saturday, Wallace scored the second pole of his NASCAR Cup Series career with a lap time of 28.672 sec. (188.337 mph), which was 0.039 sec. faster than his closest competitor.
Now, Wallace, who many expected to be bounced from the Playoffs in the Round of 16, is ready to shine on the big stage.
"It feels great,"
Wallace said of the pole-winning run.
"I appreciate everybody on this No. 23 team, McDonald's Toyota Camry. When it's time to step up to the plate and deliver, that's what these guys do. It's time, it's the Playoffs. It's what you've got to do. Show up in big-time moments, and make big-time plays."
While Wallace knows the pole is exciting, and will put him in a great position to score valuable Stage Points in the race, he is focused on the task at hand, which is performing to the best of his abilities on Sunday.
"I'm excited for today, but the real task is tomorrow,"
"But it's good to start it out on the right foot."
The 29-year old, who hails from Mobile, AL, has one top-10 finish at the 1.5-mile intermediate oval in Fort Worth, Texas, which came back in 2018 when he was driving for Richard Petty Motorsports.
Wallace will look to add another tally to the top-10 finish column on Sunday.
Chris Buescher, who has been ultra-impressive this season for RFK Racing, will lineup alongside Wallace on the outside of the front row for Sunday's race.
Brad Keselowski, Buescher's teammate, will start from the inside of Row 2 in the No. 6 RFK Racing Ford Mustang, and Ty Gibbs, the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year, will start from the fourth position.
Ross Chastain, AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Busch, Daniel Suarez, Christopher Bell, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-10 qualifiers for Sunday's Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 400.
Bell, who drives the No. 20 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, saw his three-race pole streak come to an end, but the mere fact he was able to take a qualifying run has to be considered a win for the driver and his team.
In the closing moments of NASCAR Cup Series practice, earlier in the morning, Bell went for a spin off of Turn 2. Fortunately, he was able to spin to the inside of the track, and avoided damage.
Hamlin, who was expected to contend for the pole after a strong opening round of the qualifying session, had his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry push tight on the exit of Turn 2.
Wisely, Hamlin backed out of the run and elected to start from the 10th position instead of chancing tearing up his race car.
Here is where the 12 Playoff Drivers will start on Sunday:
Bubba Wallace (1st)
Chris Buescher (2nd)
Brad Keselowski (3rd)
Ross Chastain (5th)
Kyle Busch (7th)
Christopher Bell (9th)
Denny Hamlin (10th)
Kyle Larson (11th)
Tyler Reddick (15th)
Martin Truex Jr. (16th)
William Byron (18th)
Ryan Blaney (23rd)
Chase Elliott, who is also still in the battle for the NASCAR Cup Series Owner Title, will start from the 29th position in the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.