DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It was a day of emotions and nobody showed more than Darrell ‘Bubba’ Wallace, who was a bawling, babbling, blithering man after finishing second in Sunday’s 60th Daytona 500.
Wallace was happy to finish second to race winner Austin Dillon, but upset at Denny Hamlin for wrecking him when the two drivers were side-by-side at the checkered flag. He let out a wild yell when he arrived for the post-race interview, but when his mother and sister arrived to tell him how proud she was of what he had just done, he broke down in tears.
These were authentic emotions in the raw form. They weren’t contrived, but the real thing.
“It’s Daytona, Jesus Chris,” Wallace said. “It’s a sensitive subject, but I’m just so emotional over where my family has been the last two years, and I don’t talk about it, but it’s just so hard. Having them here to support me is – ‘pull it together, Bud, pull it together. You just finished second. It’s awesome,’” Wallace said as he started talking to himself.
“I just try so hard to be successful at everything I do, and my family pushes me each and every day. They might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud.
“Second is horrible, but it’s still a good day.”
This was a day when NASCAR said goodbye to a driver who was supposed to help raise their awareness among the masses, as Danica Patrick competed in her final race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
She was gone by lap 103, however, swallowed up in a seven-car crash that was triggered when Brad Keselowski got into the rear of Chase Elliott’s car on the backstretch. Elliott’s car took a hard right and slammed into the wall.
Patrick’s day – and NASCAR career – was over.
“I’m grateful for everything,” Patrick said. “Thank you to all the fans. I still have one more (the 102nd Indianapolis 500). It is not a stock car, but still have one more.
“It’s funny Jeff Gordon and I did an SMT (Satellite Media Tour) for FOX the other day and he said his last Daytona didn’t go well either and I was like ‘oh wow I don’t remember that’, I remember your career, so I hope that is how it is with me with everybody.”
There was the heartbreak displayed by Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney, who led five times for 118 laps before a late-race crash dropped him to seventh at the checkered flag. Hamlin had the second most laps led with just 22.
“It was just hard racing,” Blaney said. “You saw it all day. I was trying to be aggressive blocking the lead and kind of fell back and got a good run back up towards it. Man, the 11 (Hamlin) blocked the 41 (Kurt Busch) and the 41 (Busch) kind of went high last minute and I was on his left rear and I turned him. I feel bad about that.
“He changed lanes last minute and I couldn’t react quick enough. It stinks. We led a lot of laps. It just wasn’t meant to be. But it was a good showing. Hopefully we go into Atlanta and have a decent run.”
Hamlin lost second place to Wallace by just .002-of-a-second and put Wallace’s Chevrolet into the wall after the two crossed the finish line. After the race, Wallace said Hamlin needs to take some Adderall, in reference to a comment Hamlin made last week on an interview on Bar Stool Sports.
When asked for a reaction to Wallace’s comment, Hamlin claimed he had a flat tire.
“I blew my right front tire out when he came down and side drafted me, so I didn’t have any control of my car because when he came down there, I was just on the yellow line,” Hamlin said. “Nothing I could have done, and it blew my right front tire out with his fender.”
Wallace believes Hamlin’s move was too reminiscent of a similar move Hamlin made on another driver last year at Martinsville Speedway.
“If I remember correctly last year with that mayhem,” Wallace said. “So be it, but it just seems like he got off of me a little bit and then turned back into me. I know the cars drive crazy and whatnot and they’re a handful, but it just didn’t seem like that right away.
“It was tough to see from that angle anyways. Who knows? We’re both pissed off at each other. But we’re racers. We’re competitive and we’ll go into Atlanta and be fine.
“I might be kicked out of the basketball league, but whatever. And golf league, too.”