Bubba Wallace confident coming into Kansas but will have obstacles Sunday

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS - SEPTEMBER 09: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 Columbia Sportswear Company Toyota, drives during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway on September 09, 2023 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Bubba Wallace ended last Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500 on a positive note, climbing to seventh in the finishing order with a strong run in the final stage.

Though he’s currently one point below the cut line for the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ Round of 12, the driver of the No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota is justifiably optimistic about his chances to advance in the postseason.

Though Wallace failed to qualify for the Playoffs last year, he won the second event at Kansas Speedway. In this year’s spring race, he finished fourth.

“Confidence is pretty well up there for Kansas,” Wallace acknowledged. “We know what we’re capable of doing. We just have to really hone in. These races are super important for us. We made up a lot of ground in the first race of the Playoffs, but we’ve got to continue to do so, being one point out.”

There’s a six-point spread between Joey Logano in 11th place and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 15th, so there’s ample opportunity for movement on Sunday.

“There’s a bunch of us that are hovering around the bubble mark right now,” Wallace said, “so we need to be better than them, and this is a great place to go out and do it.”

Wallace will face one impediment in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 (3 p.m. ET on USA, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). His car failed pre-qualifying inspection twice. Hence, Wallace lost the services of car chief Zachary Marquardt, who was ejected from the track.

He also lost pit selection—potentially detrimental depending on which drivers are pitting in front of him and behind him.