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Emotions overflow for Wallace Jr. after leading laps, slipping late

BRISTOL, Tenn. – There was a throwback moment in Monday’s weather-delayed Food City 500 that caught everyone’s eye.

On Lap 375 of 500, Daytona 500 runner-up Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. muscled past Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford to take the race lead. There, up front at Bristol, was the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet, sporting the traditional Petty blue and red colors, reminiscent of an era when team owner Richard Petty was the King of stock car racing.

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Wallace led six laps before eventual race winner Kyle Busch overtook him, but those were the first six laps Wallace has led in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Though Wallace ran in the top 10 for much of the rest of the race, he faded to 16th at the finish after the handling of his Chevy deteriorated.

Afterwards, Wallace expressed a jumble of mixed emotions both to reporters on pit road and then to his fans in a candid first-person video on Twitter.

“Yeah, hell of a day,” Wallace said after the race. “Didn’t know what to expect firing off, and we fired off like a freaking badass and got our way up to 10th in that second stage there. I was as surprised as anybody.

“Going through the emotions, we were really good and that last caution came out, and we were struggling with left-front (tire) problems there late in runs, locking up easily, but still was able to make decent ground. Then, all of a sudden it went away there, and, man, just blindsided there by that.

“I’m just dejected because I’m scratching my head on where in the hell we went wrong or what we did wrong. I don’t think we did anything wrong. I guess that is big-time auto racing, but it was a good day.”