Wallace vows to work harder after COTA ‘rookie mistake’

Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

Wallace vows to work harder after COTA ‘rookie mistake’


Wallace vows to work harder after COTA ‘rookie mistake’


Bubba Wallace got a wake-up call last weekend when he made what he termed a “rookie mistake” and showed up at Richmond Raceway vowing to be a better person.

On lap 11 at Circuit of The Americas, Wallace blew into Turn 12 and collected Erik Jones and Kyle Larson. The incident severely damaged Wallace’s Toyota, a busted oil line ending his day.

But it was Wallace’s reaction during his FOX Sports interview that garnered attention. In admitting he made a rookie mistake as a sixth-year Cup Series driver, Wallace also said he needed to be replaced.

“I questioned myself, sitting in the car waiting to get on the plane of why am I in this head space right now after coming into this year with the most confidence I ever had,” Wallace explained. “I think I realized I was solely riding on confidence (and) not putting the work effort into being where I wanted to be. We put a lot of effort into COTA, but from the race before that, you’re just riding on confidence.

“We’ve had an up-and-down start to the year, but realizing I have to work hard. I have to be a better person.”

The reaction from those close to Wallace has been supportive. Wallace shared that his mother, Desiree, texted him during the week, which resonated.

“I think the text I got from my mom was, ‘If you want something to change, you have to change yourself,’” said Wallace. “Finally that stuck with me. Usually, I’m like, ‘Thanks, Mom.’ But there are a lot of unanswered texts I had. Unanswered phone calls I had. But I read every single one of them and listened to all the voicemails and I appreciate them.

“I took a lot of time to self-reflect and basically, in short, I need to get my (butt) in shape. Work out. Eat better. Just do things better. I feel good. I feel back to where I was to start the year.”

Wallace’s mental and physical turnaround started this week, and he is committed to doing the work.

“The better your physical health, the better your mental health,” he said.

COTA followed the pattern of Wallace’s up-and-down year, with strong pre-race form followed by this incident that cleaned out Kyle Larson and Erik Jones along with himself. Motorsport Images

COTA was shaping up to be a solid weekend for Wallace. Road course racing has been an uphill battle for him previously, but last weekend, he and teammate Tyler Reddick were at the top of the board for portions of practice. Wallace qualified 11th for the race.

“His road course skills took a giant leap in the course of a year,” team co-owner Denny Hamlin said. “He just made a mistake and is beating himself up. That’s how emotional he is, but he also can really quickly pivot into using it as motivation to get better. We’ve seen over the last 12 months he’s used that motivation and he has gotten better.

“My job is to pat Bubba on the back and say, ‘We all screw up, and we’ve all made big mistakes.’ It’s just when it happens a couple of weeks in a row, as a driver, you really take it hard. But he’ll get over it with a good run.”

As for the specifics of that “rookie mistake,” Wallace said he got lost where he was on track. And in trying not to take out one driver, he inadvertently and unintentionally took out two others.

“I got a run on Ross (Chastain) out of (Turn) 11 — and I had this conversation with myself. I was like, ‘Ross is pretty good at these places, don’t overdrive the corner and blow through it,’” Wallace said. “So, I get three-quarters of the way down the straightaway and I poked out to see where we’re at, and that was my problem — I got fixated on Ross’s car.

“But I was like, ‘We’re close to the braking marker.’ As soon as I got back in line, he braked and I was like, ‘Oh (expletive), I’m going to clean him out.’ And when I did that, the way our cars are set up, you’re on the right-rear shock, it loaded, and it locked up the rears.

“Next thing you know, I looked like (Kyle) Larson at Indy. It was just gone and I piled into Larson, piled into (Jones). Just all trying not to wreck the 1 car.”

Wallace did have a sense of humor about the incident, adding, “I should have done that because a lot of people would have been happy with me for wrecking the 1.”