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Race report
NASCAR Cup Kansas II

Bubba Wallace beats Hamlin, wins Kansas Cup race

For the second consecutive week, the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs produced a surprise winner as Bubba Wallace held off Denny Hamlin to win at Kansas Speedway.

Wallace ran down Alex Bowman to take the lead for the first time on Lap 200 of 267 and remained out front after successfully navigating a round of green-flag pit stops.

With 16 laps to go, Hamlin – who is co-owner of Wallace’s No. 45 23XI Racing team – got around Christopher Bell and began running down Wallace for the lead.

With no additional cautions to help, Wallace was able to hold off Hamlin by 1 second to earn his second career victory and first of the 2022 season.

“What are they going to say now? Let’s go,” Wallace yelled over his team radio after taking the checkered flag.

Wallace, the only fulltime black driver in the Cup Series, also replicated the win by his 23XI Racing teammate, Kurt Busch, who won the spring Kansas race. Wallace is now driving Busch’s No. 45 while Busch continues to recover from the effects of a concussion.

The win by Wallace automatically advances the No. 45 team to the second round of the Cup Series owner’s playoffs, regardless of his performance next weekend at Bristol, Tenn.

“Man, I’m just so proud of this team and the effort they put in each and every week,” Wallace said. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity, right? Took this jump from an idea two years ago from a text from Denny before it all even happened. He was ready to get the deal done. My pit crew was awesome today. We had one loose wheel.

“I knew Denny was going to be strong. That's the things I look at, is he wasn’t that good at the beginning of the day, and he comes up and finishes P2. And that’s what I want to start doing. When we don’t have the best days, just capitalize on moments like that.

“It’s cool to beat the boss, but man, we were just lights-out today once we got to the lead, and it was a lot of fun.”

Asked how he remained focused to through the final 96-lap green-flag run, Wallace said, “Been doing this for a really long time. I haven’t won a race like that in a really long time, but just knowing getting excited is going to mess you up, so it was just cool, calm, and collected, and here we are.”

Bell finished third, Bowman fourth and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five.

Completing the top-10 were William Byron, Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez.

With one race remaining in the first round of the Cup Series driver’s playoffs, the four drivers most in danger of not advancing to Round 2 are Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Chase Briscoe and Kevin Harvick.

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Stage 3

Following the break between Stages 2 and 3, all the lead-lap cars elected to pit with Bowman again first off pit road.

On the restart on Lap 172, Bowman was followed by Wallace, Hamlin, Byron and Bell.

Wallace got around Byron to move into second on Lap 181.

On Lap 200, Wallace went to the inside of Bowman off Turn 4 and grabbed the lead for the first time in the race.

With 60 laps remaining, Wallace held a more than 1-second lead over Bowman as Bell ran third.

On Lap 213, several cars hit pit road to kick off a round of green-flag pit stops to take on new tires and fuel to make it to the end of the race.

Once the cycle of stops was completed on Lap 225, Wallace returned to the lead. He was followed by Bell, Hamlin and Byron.

With 25 laps to go, Wallace’s lead over Bell and dropped to 2.3 seconds over Bell. They were followed by Hamlin, Byron and Bowman.

Hamlin got around Bell with 16 laps remaining and tailed leader Wallace by 2.3 seconds.

Stage 2

Bowman held off Bell to take the Stage 2 win, just his second stage victory of the 2022 season.

Byron was third, Wallace fourth and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five.

Following the break between Stages 1 and 2, most of the lead-lap cars pit but Aric Almirola remained on the track and inherited the lead. Michael McDowell was first off pit road thanks to a two-tire stop.

Both Blaney and Wallace had to make second pit stops due to loose wheels.

On the restart on Lap 87, Almirola was followed by McDowell, Bell and Truex.

McDowell quickly moved into the lead on the restart and Truex got around him on Lap 88 to take the lead for the first time in the race.

After getting into the wall the previous lap, Ty Gibbs lost a tire on his No. 23 Toyota on Lap 90 which placed the race back under caution.

Only a handful of cars elected to pit and the race resumed on Lap 96 with Truex out front followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Bell.

Stenhouse, running second at the time, had a right-rear tire go down and hit the wall on Lap 110 to bring out the sixth caution of the race.

All of the lead-lap cars pit with Truex the first off pit road. Truex, however, had to pit a second time for a loose wheel.

Austin Dillon, Suarez and Busch were all penalized for equipment interference and had to restart from the rear of the field.

On the restart on Lap 115, Byron led the way followed by Bowman and Joey Logano.

Entering Turn 1 on the restart, a multi-car wreck erupted that collected Almirola, Harrison Burton and Corey LaJoie to place the race back under caution.

A handful of cars pit but Byron remained on the track and in the lead. On the restart on Lap 121, Byron was followed by Bowman, Logano and Briscoe.

Bowman powered back to the lead on the restart.

Kyle Busch spun down the frontstretch on Lap 138 to bring out the eighth caution of the race.

All the lead-lap cars pit with Bowman first off pit road. On the restart on Lap 144, Bowman was followed by Byron, Logano and Elliott.

With 15 laps remaining in the stage, Bowman held a half-second lead over Byron as Bell ran third.

With 10 laps to go, Bell got around Byron to take over the second position.

Stage 1

Bell fended off a hard charge from Blaney to claim the Stage 1 win, his third of the 2022 season.

Truex was third, Stenhouse fourth and Wallace completed the top-five.

Tyler Reddick started on the pole but Logano got a better start and led Lap 1.

Bowman powered around to the inside of Logano to move into the lead on Lap 2 as Reddick returned to second.

NASCAR displayed a competition caution on Lap 27 to allow teams to check tire wear.

The lead-lap cars all pit with Reddick first off pit road. Both Briscoe and Truex were penalized for speeding on pit road and had to restart from the rear of the field. Hamlin also had to restart from the rear due to equipment interference.

The race returned to green on Lap 32 with Reddick out front followed by Bowman and Bell.

On Lap 34, Wallace and Ross Chastain moved up in front of Harvick off Turn 4, Harvick’s No. 4 Ford got loose and hit the wall to bring out the caution.

Most of the lead-lap cars remained on the track and Reddick led the way on the restart on Lap 39.

With 25 laps remaining in the stage, Reddick maintained almost a 1-second lead over Blaney as Bowman ran third.

On Lap 66, Reddick had a left-rear tire go down and hit the wall on the backstretch to bring out a caution and allowed Blaney to inherit the lead.

All the lead-lap cars pit with Austin Dillon first off pit road thanks to a two-tire pit stop. Briscoe missed his pit stall because Bowman drove through his pit stop.

On the restart on Lap 72, Austin Dillon led the way followed by Bell, Chastain and Blaney.

Bell quickly powered to the lead on the restart.

Both Almirola (engine change) and Stenhouse (unapproved adjustments) had to start the race from the rear of the field.

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