If there was ever a road-course race in which Bubba Wallace needed to take the next step, it would be Sunday’s Grant Park 165. 

Road courses have always been the weakest point of Wallace’s race craft, but towards the tail end of 2023, he seemed to be slowly improving. Wallace has been decent on road courses in 2024 — finishes of 15th at COTA and 20th at Sonoma are miles ahead of where he was in 2021 or 2022 — but Chicago is a pivotal race for Wallace if he wishes to remain in striking distance for a playoff spot. 

Wallace currently sits 17th in the Cup Series playoff standings, 51 points out of the 16th and final playoff spot. With only seven regular-season races remaining, every lap counts for Wallace, who is looking to make the playoffs for the second year in a row. 

Wallace did his job on Saturday, as the No. 23 car was sixth fastest in both practice and qualifying. With Stage One being comprised of just 20 laps, Wallace needs to take advantage of his qualifying effort to earn stage points. 

And with 16th-place driver Alex Bowman starting eighth on Sunday, every position and point will matter that much more. 

While 75 laps on the 2.2-mile street course can present a myriad of strategies, situations and chaos, Wallace has a chance to cut into his points deficit. With Pocono and Indianapolis — two tracks where Wallace should be fairly quick — ending July’s portion of the NASCAR calendar, stealing a good points day or a miraculous win could be the catalyst for another playoff run. 

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