Wallace Jr. shows 'respect' in Bristol runner-up finish
August 20, 2014, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
BRISTOL, Tenn. – He would have had "to wreck him" to get by for the win, and Darrell "Bubba" Wallace said he wasn't going to go there.
Wallace, a two-time winner this year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, got close enough for contact with Brad Keselowski during Thursday’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway, but chose not to try and move his opponent.
"I'm trying to make a name for myself," said Wallace, driver of the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 54 Toyota. "I might have gotten some cheers, but I figure I'd have gotten more boos if I'd went in there and wrecked him.
"I race everybody with respect, at least I try to. … Just watching him, seeing what he’s done … you don't get much time around (Sprint Cup drivers), but when you do you've got to be ready to learn from them and be ready to beat them. There's always next time."
In a race that saw two team owner/drivers – Keselowski and Kyle Busch – dominate, Wallace was equally fast. And by the time Busch got in the wall late with a right-rear flat, Wallace was already chasing down Keselowski for the lead.
Lapped traffic was an issue for the lead trucks throughout the event, and likely played a part in allowing Wallace to put pressure on the race leader in the closing laps.
"I think that's how we caught a couple of breaks with Brad; he caught lapped traffic at the wrong time and I'd be able to get to him," Wallace said. "Our truck was just a little too tight to really maneuver around him.
"When you're at the top, you really control the race, unless you go in there and pull a slide job. I've only won one dirt race; I'm not comfortable with that yet.
"Lapped traffic is always big here. I knew we would catch it early and that it would be a big factor in today's race. Luckily it didn’t cost us anything."
Wallace trailed the race winner by 0.776 second at the finish.
The win was Keselowsk'’s first in the series, and came in his 62nd start. His truck was one of three, however, that had issues in post-race technical inspection when it measured too high at the rear spoiler. The entries of third-place finisher Ron Hornaday Jr., and Cole Custer (eighth) were also cited for the same issue.
Keselowski said he was impressed with Wallace's effort and how he raced in the closing laps of Thursday's event.
"I think he's really proven himself this year, winning races, running up front, being competitive and making the most out of his opportunity," Keselowski said. "Along the way I haven't seen him do anything sketchy. I think he deserves a lot of credit for that and (has) certainly punched his ticket to the next level."
Wallace, who won earlier this year at Gateway and Eldora, admitted he's still learning while also trying to compete against the more experience drivers such as Keselowski and Busch. At short, fast tracks such as Bristol, the level of difficulty increases.
"Those guys know when the track's going to come in, when the top's going to come in; I don't," he said. "I go up there and step over the edge one time and then that's it, I'm not going back up there. A lot of those guys are like 'OK, I'll move down (slightly)'; that's just technical stuff … it's just how much more experience they have."
In his few previous starts here, Wallace said he "always ran the bottom (groove)."
"Moving up there I found some grip, it's like a light was shone – 'run up here, run up here.' … And then I think I just used (the truck) up.
"I don't know if (Keselowski) was just lagging back, playing with me, you never know. You just have to move around. It's always about finding grip. The bottom gets worn out quick and then you start working your way up. I just have to keep remembering that."
Wallace remains fifth in points, trailing leader Johnny Sauter by 33.
Next up for the series is the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 31.