Off-track excursion stalls first Sonoma practice for Bubba Wallace

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 21: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #43 World Wide Technology Chevrolet, drives during practice for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 21, 2019 in Sonoma, California. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

Bubba Wallace finally got a close-hand look at the carousel—the section of Sonoma Raceway that restores the road course to 2.52 miles—but the experience didn’t come as soon as Wallace had anticipated.

On his first lap in practice on Friday, Wallace spun off the track in Turn 3 and returned to the racing surface red-faced.

“I didn’t even get a chance to look at it before I spun out,” Wallace said between practice sessions for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race (3 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “I got out and went up Turn 3 and thought, ‘Man, these tires are cold,’ and I spun out.

“So now that’s now the top of the board for the most embarrassing moment, because we were just cruising around. (Corey) LaJoie was in front of me, and he hadn’t even fired off yet. (Michael) McDowell was behind me. We were just kind of cruising, putting stuff together, and the next thing you know, I was looking at the dirt. I was like, ‘All right. Here we go. We got it out of the way.’”

Wallace finally got through the entire course, but he was 31st fastest of 38 drivers in the first practice session.

He had a better time during the NASCAR off week when he and team owner Richard Petty saw the St. Louis Blues hockey team during the recent run to the Stanley Cup. David Steward, chairman and founder of World Wide Technology, Inc. (one of Wallace’s primary sponsors), is part of the Blues ownership group.

“Whenever I was watching, it was a good time,” Wallace said of his hockey experience. “It’s way too fast for me, but, yeah, a good time… The crowd was involved from start to finish, and that was pretty cool, the atmosphere there.

“Although the two games I went to were two losses, so I don’t know if I’m allowed back at a Blues game, but they ended up pulling it off.”

Greg Engle