Bubba Wallace qualifies 1st at Michigan, notches NASCAR’s fastest lap of 2022

Bubba Wallace qualifies 1st at Michigan, notches NASCAR’s fastest lap of 2022

Bubba Wallace will start on the pole for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, as he treated fans to the fastest qualifying lap in NASCAR since February 2021.

Wallace’s lap averaged 190.703 mph to win his first career pole. The previous high this season in the new Next Gen car was 183.7 mph at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“Trying to tell yourself to hold (the gas) wide open sounds easy, but it’s a challenge,” Wallace said.

Wallace’s team radio was on the wrong channel, so when he crossed the finish line during qualifying, he didn’t get an update on his speed.

“I come across the line and … silence,” Wallace said. “I was like, ‘Oh great, I just botched this lap.’

He found his way to the right channel, and was “pumped” to hear the news.

Here’s a look at the fastest qualifying times this season.

(Can’t see the chart? Click here.)

There hasn’t been qualifying at MIS since 2019. It was canceled in 2019 and 2020 to shorten the race weekends during the pandemic. Wallace’s lap was the fastest qualifying lap at MIS since 2018, when Denny Hamlin went 202.794 mph.

The track record is 206.558 mph, set by Jeff Gordon in 2014.

NASCAR drivers have topped 200 mph in qualifying just 14 times since 2000 – and 11 of those came at MIS.

Speeds slowed down at MIS in 2019 when NASCAR changed engines from 750 horsepower to 550 horsepower. This year with the Next Gen car, NASCAR increased the horsepower up to 670 – boosting speeds.

Here’s a look at the fastest Cup Series qualifying laps at MIS from the first race in 1969 through this weekend.

(Can’t see the chart? Click here.)

Wallace needs a win in the next four races, otherwise he’ll miss the playoffs. His one career win came at Talladega Superspeedway last fall.

He’s had success before at MIS. Wallace won the 2017 NASCAR Truck Series race at the track, becoming the first Black driver to win in the track’s history. Even now, Wallace calls it one of the biggest races of his career.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Darrell Wallace (99) celebrates after winning the LTI Printing 200 at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (Jake Crandall | Mlive.com) MLive Media GroupMLive Media Group

At the time, Wallace’s Xfinity team had just shut down. He was sitting on his couch re-evaluating his racing career when he got the call to do a one-off truck race at MIS.

It was proof that “I still got it,” Wallace said.

“I’ll never forget that race here,” Wallace said. “It was incredible to be apart of, incredible to win it. A lot of good things happen here at Michigan. It’d be great to continue that trend tomorrow.”

RELATED: Unemployed a week ago, Darrell Wallace Jr. becomes first black driver to win at MIS

Wallace

Bubba Wallace drives during NASCAR Cup Series auto race qualifying at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. Wallace won the pole position. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)PA

The fastest track in NASCAR

MIS markets itself as the “fastest track in NASCAR,” and it lives up to that billing.

Driver Austin Cindric is excited to have the higher horsepower engines at MIS this weekend, saying speed is what makes the track special.

“I remember my first time at Michigan (in 2017) and watching a Cup car go into Turn 1 over 200 mph. It’s pretty incredible to watch,” Cindric said. “You kind of have to remind yourself there’s a human pilot in that car, it’s not just a machine.”

Cindric recalls standing near the tunnel by Turn 1, watching drivers “hauling the mail.”

“You can’t help but have a smile on your face,” Cindric said.

Cindric qualified fifth for Sunday’s race, which starts at 3 pm and is televised on the USA Network. Here are the top 10 starters for the race.

  1. Bubba Wallace, No. 23 Toyota
  2. Christopher Bell, No. 20 Toyota
  3. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota
  4. Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford
  5. Austin Cindric, No. 2 Ford
  6. Tyler Reddick, No. 8 Chevrolet
  7. Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Toyota
  8. Kyle Larson, No. 5 Chevrolet
  9. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota
  10. Erik Jones (Byron, Michigan native), No. 43 Chevrolet

Points leader Chase Elliott is starting 13th, last year’s winner Ryan Blaney is starting 24th and Rochester Hills native Brad Keselowski is starting 33rd.

MORE COVERAGE FROM MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY

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Last year, a University of Michigan loyalist drove the No. 2 car. This year, it’s a Buckeye.

NASCAR in Michigan: 12 burning questions as the series hits the Irish Hills

Comfortable on the mower and in the board room, new MIS president ready for NASCAR weekend

MIS sells out infield campsites for NASCAR for first time since 2012

After 2 long years, reopened border allows Canadian race fans to return to MIS

For an updated list of stories from MIS this NASCAR race weekend, click here.

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