There was no rain. There was no silliness. There wasn’t huge attrition. There were no inspection issues. There was nothing at all to taint the legitimacy of it – Bubba Wallace went out there at Kansas and won the race, straight up. In a race that saw a long green flag run in the final stage, Bubba chased down and passed Alex Bowman from two seconds back, then outran Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin following the last round of pit stops to pick up his second career win.
One of the first thoughts that ran through the heads of many fans of Bubba, myself included, was something to the effect of “now they’ll stop”. Heck, it was even one of the first thing Bubba thought, as evidenced by his “thankful to shut the hell up for a lot of people” comment in his front stretch interview. It’s seemingly all we’d ever see any time Bubba would come up on a NASCAR social media post – comments about how he can’t win, about how he’s terrible and should just quit, and…. other assorted nonsense.
So much of the vitriol seems to revolve around a fixation on his Talladega win from last year. How, despite all the evidence to the contrary, he didn’t earn it. It was “just” a rain win, he didn’t do anything to deserve it, and it doesn’t count. Well, there was nothing like that at Kansas – Bubba went out there and piloted a bad fast 45 car to a win. A totally legitimate, straight up victory.
That didn’t stop them though.
As we all figured they would, the noisiest people in NASCAR – Bubba Wallace haters – have once again moved the goalposts for his success. At Talladega, it changed from “he can’t win” to “he can’t earn a win”. Now the criticisms have changed tune yet again, as people struggle to grapple with a reality in which Bubba Wallace is a bona fide winner.
I’m going to take a bit of a dive into some ways the goalposts have been shoved, bent, moved, and outright broken to help people try to confirm their warped narratives that Bubba Wallace can’t win in NASCAR – despite now TWO pieces of evidence to the contrary.
1) “Denny let him win!”
This is one that I saw coming. Let’s be honest, we probably all did. As soon as Denny got by Christopher Bell for second place, I thought “here we go, that’s what the goalpost move is gonna be this time.” And boy, was I right. I’ve not seen any individual talking point more than this one.
To anyone buying into this one, I’d like to say this: do you know anything…and I mean ANYTHING… about Denny Hamlin?
If you honestly believe that he would let up even a little bit just because one of his drivers is leading when there is a race win and a guaranteed spot in the next round of the playoffs on the line – particularly with the kind of season the 11 team has had this year – you’re out of your mind. I think the only thing that may be off the table when it comes to Denny racing his own guys would be a dump and run for the win, simply because it’d be money out of his own pocket – but even then, I’m not so sure. But that was a moot point here, because Denny still finished more than a full second behind Bubba, even after pushing his car so hard he fenced it.
Denny even said it himself in his post race interview – “Nothing will ever come free when you’re driving for me – if you think that I’m gonna let you win you better go get another job.” If you truly believe he didn’t mean that – if you honestly believe that Denny Hamlin just “let” Bubba win – you don’t know a thing about Denny Hamlin.
2) “He can’t win unless he’s in a faster car!”
There are two words I would love to use in my response to this one, but this is a family friendly website, so I’ll substitute the second of the two words: NO DUH!
You could be the best race car driver in the world, but if your car isn’t good enough, you just aren’t going to win. That’s just a fact, and it’s always been true. Slap Kyle Larson into a Rick Ware piece, see where it gets you. Heck, you don’t even need such a drastic example – Kyle Larson was at Chip Gannassi Racing for seven years, and only won six races, never finishing higher than sixth in points. He moved over to Hendrick Motorsports and won 10 races and a championship year one, and is one of the championship favorites in year two. Why? Because on top of his talent, which had always been there, he now has elite equipment to go with it instead of CGR’s marginally above average equipment.
23XI gave Bubba a rocketship on Sunday – it was probably the best car he’s ever had the opportunity to drive. But you still have to execute – and he did. So this one is just silly, and ignores the fact that NASCAR is, at it’s very core, a team sport.
3) “They must have cheated!”
Also known as the “Facebook special”, this one is nothing more than a coping mechanism. They passed inspection, full stop – let’s chill with the “dAmN cHeAtIn YoDeRs” talk, or anything about NASCAR turning a blind eye – it’s unfounded and ridiculous.
4) “It was Kurt’s win, not Bubba’s!”
This isn’t one I was expecting to see, but I wanted to include it following a particularly confusing exchange I had on Twitter with an exceptionally unpleasant person. I wasn’t even sure if I should include it here because I wasn’t sure if they were pulling their own version of legendary sports Twitter troll “Barry McCockiner” and caught me up in a ruse. But they insisted that they were being serious, then proceeded to lob insults at both me and others, so I guess I’ll talk about it.
This particular individual was so upset by what had transpired that they convinced themselves that Kurt should actually be credited with the win – or more specifically, that he already was.
While I certainly appreciate that they called me “Dr.” even though I am a PhD candidate – not yet a full fledged PhD (soon though!) – this kind of thing is all too common. Just formulating narratives in your mind. I’ve left off the bevvy of insults they decided to throw my way – and a few I threw back – but regardless… quite an unpleasant exchange.
This person wasn’t alone though… there were others that tried to attribute the win to Kurt, albeit most of them didn’t seem to think Kurt would outright get a +1 to his career win totals… as far as I know at least.
5) “It was just a fluke!”
If this was a superspeedway, I would get it – anybody can realistically win at those tracks. If this was a late race restart where someone else pushed him to the win I would get it – think Cole Custer at Kentucky using a huge push from Matt DiBenedetto to pick up his only career win. But for this particular race – one without much attrition, with a long green flag run to the finish, split in half by green flag pit stops – there is nothing about that setup that’s the least bit “flukey”. He took the lead and ran away with it over the course of a long run.
6) Nothing of substance, just anger
Of everything that’s been discussed, this one was probably the most predictable. Bubba is a polarizing figure for the simple reason that a lot of what he – and many of his fans – stand for is in such stark opposition to the typical mindset of your stereotypical NASCAR fan.
So, for your viewing “pleasure”, I will end this piece with a compilation of cope. A slideshow of sadness. A presentation of pain.
And now the creme de la creme to round it out – everyone’s favorite grifter, Nick Adams.
Image credit: Pat Vallely