An emotional Bubba Wallace unsuccessfully tried to choke back tears, accepted a bear hug from buddy Ryan Blaney and gave a heartfelt TV interview from the garage.
And that was before he finished fifth in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, giving a needed jolt in the arm for a driver and team who have struggled to find their footing this year.
RELATED: Full All-Star Race results
Wallace hadn’t even qualified for the $1 million, winner-take-all bash prior to Saturday. He had to fight his way into the main event by winning one of three stages in the preceding Monster Energy Open — which he did, clipping Daniel Suarez at the start/finish line in an incredible finish to Stage 2.
“I gave up the first stage win and I didn’t say anything on the radio,” Wallace said after locking into the main event. “But my parents and everyone that has always helped me always said, when I am pissed off, I drive better. … My mental game is really shot right now, but damn it feels good to win something. I have failed at a lot of things in life recently, but I am working to make those things better.”
Wallace kept the No. 43 Chevrolet mostly clean in the All-Star Race despite driving through the field with reckless abandon. Showing off his aggressiveness in space, Wallace was running in the top five late — just behind Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, actually — before coming home with a top-five finish in his first career All-Star Race.
“Tons of fun tonight,” a relieved Wallace said on pit road post-race. “I honestly haven’t had that much fun in a long time. It was a big night for us, a big night of momentum.”