Race Weekend Central

Bubba Wallace Tries to Stay Positive After Michigan Runner-Up

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Bubba Wallace took his time.

A few minutes after he finished second in Sunday’s (Aug. 7) NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway, Wallace did not exit his racecar.

As Kevin Harvick celebrated ending his 65-race winless streak on the frontstretch, Wallace sat in his No. 23 Toyota on pit road, his helmet on and the safety net still up.

Roughly a minute after he came to a stop, Wallace let the net down. For another 20 seconds, he sat still, staring straight ahead.

Finally, the 23XI Racing driver pulled himself out of the car and began removing his racing gear. When he was done, Wallace briefly leaned against his car and stared out toward the grandstands before kneeling down to further collect himself.

See also
Kevin Harvick Breaks Winless Streak with Michigan Victory

Once he was done, Wallace began the slow circuit of talking to TV reporters, receiving encouragement and congrats from crew members and team owner Denny Hamlin, who finished third.

What did Hamlin tell him?

“Great job, great job all weekend,” he said. “[Wallace] and his team did a great job … the whole team continues to get better and we’re happy with the results.”

Wallace then disappeared over the pit wall and into victory lane to congratulate Harvick on his win.

“Bubba and I have a great relationship,” Harvick said. “We talk and joke and pick. I could tell he was a little bit frustrated because he knew how fast his car was today … there’s great respect there and we have conversations a lot. It’s fun to see them running good, but I’d much rather win, though.”

It’s clear that’s exactly how Wallace felt, too.

When he reappeared over the wall, it was time for more interviews to discuss his career-best fourth consecutive top-10 finish and his third top five in the last four races.

But after starting from his first career Cup pole and leading a career-best 23 laps to start the 400-lap race, none of that mattered.

“I finished second,” Wallace said. “Second doesn’t get you into the playoffs.”

With Harvick’s win, there’s now just one spot left in the postseason field open to a potential first-time winner or someone getting in on points.

On Saturday, Wallace had recounted a story from a tire test earlier this year. It had gone so well, Wallace had told his team he’d be “very pissed off” if he didn’t win at the 2-mile track.

See also
'Holy S---, That's Fast': Bubba Wallace's 'Impressive' 1st Cup Pole

Instead, he finished 2.9 seconds back from a potential second career Cup win.

“Way worse than Daytona. Daytona, we fell into that one,” said Wallace, referring to the season-opening race when he lost to Austin Cindric by .036 seconds in a car that was missing its right-front fender.

“This one, we had the car,” Wallace explained. “Got behind a little bit on adjustments in the middle of the race. I didn’t think we were going to get back up there. It’s so hard to pass. The aero on these cars is nuts. Had to grind and stay hungry and get us up there. The next thing you know, it kind of fell our way.”

With 41 laps to go, a wreck between Ross Chastain and Christopher Bell reset the field for a 35-lap run to the finish.

During the ensuing caution, Hamlin beat Wallace to the exit of pit road and would’ve been second on the restart after Harvick stayed out since he had pit right before the caution. However, a pit penalty against Hamlin meant Wallace would restart second instead. He had arguably the best car and his best chance at a win.

How did he fail to cash in?

“I made the wrong choice on the restart,” Wallace said. “The No. 1 rule here, not the No. 1, but near the top, is to not race side-by-side for too long to let people get away, especially the leader.”

But that’s what happened.

Once the race resumed, Harvick was able to run away to a roughly four-second lead as Wallace, Joey Logano and Kyle Larson battled desperately for second.

“We were all going for it. No one was going to lift in turn 1.”

That battle ended after just one lap when Logano got into the side of Wallace and forced him to cut off Larson as they exited turn 2.

Larson quickly dropped to ninth and Wallace was now stuck behind Logano’s much slower No. 22.

“If we were able to clear him in that moment, maybe we could have made a run,” Wallace said. “But stayed too long behind Logano.”

He didn’t get by the No. 22 Ford until there were 17 laps to go, and by then Harvick was long gone.

Even with his disappointment, Wallace acknowledged his 10th career top five was a “hell of a result.

“It’s a great weekend for us. There’s a ton of positives,” Wallace explained. “The only negative was that we didn’t win. … We had speed, we had the car. The team’s pumped up. Confidence is still continuing to grow … We go into Richmond (next weekend) with momentum still on our side. I’m just bummed we didn’t win the race.”

Did any of the words of congratulations and encouragement given to him in the last few minutes mean anything?

“Deep down, it does,” Wallace said. “I have enough voices of my own in my head telling me no less.”

With that, Wallace was escorted back toward the garage, through a series of conflicting external voices.

On Wallace’s right was a chain link fence with a string of fans behind it.

Multiple fans called out his name in encouragement or gave him a thumbs up.

One yelled, “Hey Bubba, see you in Chicago, baby!”

He got two calls of “Good race, Bubba!”

Another sarcastically jeered, “I’m lovin’ it, Bubba. Yeah, Bubba, I’m lovin’ it.”

In the midst of it all, one fan wearing Wallace gear imparted some words that gave his run some personal stakes.

“This day was super important to me. Thank you!”

Wallace, acknowledging the positive voices and seeming to ignore the rest, walked on.

See also
Up to Speed: 23XI Racing on the NASCAR Playoff Brink

About the author

Daniel McFadin is a 7-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He's currently a freelancer and lead reporter and editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR show "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" on YouTube and in podcast form.

You can email him at danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

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TiminPayson

Joe Gibbs pit crew training is apparently not good.

Dale EarnHog

apparently Trackhouse’s is awful as well

kb

Darrell Wallace was complaining about a competitor “racing him”. Post race BS noted…Shocking! Not really. SMH.

Fed Up

Denise is teaching him to whine.

DoninAjax

That’s one of the reasons he fits in so well at Reverend Joe’s whine and cheese parties.

1911_Bandit

You are a career average 20th – 25th place driver, Bubba, even after millions of dollars were invested in building a team just for you. Check the standings! Being in the Playoffs regularly may come with a little more seat time and experience, but last year you “rain shortened” your way in and this year you won’t.

Last edited 1 month ago by 1911_Bandit
Dale EarnHog

It would help if he didn’t have incidents out of his control happen in 15 of 23 races this year. He would likely be around the Playoff cutline or in on points(if we didn’t have 15 winners)

1911_Bandit

The prior years excuses were that he “just didn’t have the good enough equipment to compete”. Now, it’s because there were 15 mistakes by other people as the reason he is not in the Chase? OK, got it!

Dale EarnHog

It’s not an excuse. I can list them all here if you like.

  1. Caught in the Big One at Fontana while running just outside the top 10(this one is debateable- it looks like Brad came down on him from the in car replay)
  2. Running top 15 at Vegas when Erik Jones spins across the track right in front of him. NASCAR waited about 4 or 5 seconds while Jones was spinning to throw the yellow.
  3. Running top 20 coming to the line at Atlanta when he got wrecked.
  4. Pit crew penalty at Martinsville while running top 15.
  5. Wheel falls off car while running top 20 at COTA(solid day by Bubba’s road course standards)
  6. Dirt gets into engine at Bristol and kills it while running p15 at Bristol dirt(happened to several other drivers as well)
  7. Wrecked coming to the line at Talladega while running top 10
  8. Broken swaybar at Dover while running top 15
  9. Caught up in the Big One at Darlington Off turn 2, along with Kurt while running top 15(Truex spun right in front of him, nowhere to go)
  10. Pit crew penalty after driving up into the 5 at Kansas. Like Kurt, had winning speed in the car. Got sent to the back. Rebounded to finish 10th.
  11. Flat tire during All Star Race while running P11
  12. Big One happens right in front of him during the Coke 600 while running top 15. While yes, he spun by himself off turn 4 earlier, Kyle Larson did that too so it doesn’t say anything in terms of lack of talent.
  13. Caught up in the Chase/Chastain spin at Gateway. Stenhouse also drove through him going into turn 3 later in the race.
  14. Blown engine at Sonoma 10 laps in
  15. Loose wheel while running P6 and coming from the back of the field at Nashville. Rebounded to finish 12th.
  16. Wrecked by Logano at Road America
  17. Rear of the car was severely messed up at Atlanta #2. Still finished P14

(While he had a terrible run at Richmond there was also another pit crew penalty there as well)
Feel free to watch all of these on Youtube. I might’ve gotten a few positions wrong but all the incidents happened. Not saying Bubba is a title contender, he is nowhere close. But this season, he has been a 12-15th place driver who, along with Kurt, has had awful luck, mostly huge wrecks happening right in front of him as well as plenty of crew errors. Look how the performance has turned around since the crew swap. He has the best average finish in Cup at 6.0 over the last 5 races.

Last edited 1 month ago by Dale EarnHog
MUgrad

Ummm… he wasn’t in the chase last year, his win came after the chase started… nice try, though… it’s good to see the hate coursing through your body

Roger

He might need antidepressant drugs to compensate for his delusions of grandeur. A gushing fountain of emotion.

Steven

He hears voices in his head. NASCAR, give him a checkup from the neck up.

Dale EarnHog

Maybe they needed to do a check up on Bobby Isaac as well.

Sally Baker

Such disappointingly personal negativity. One wonders what triggers it?

Dale EarnHog

He has struggled with depression in the past(at the start of his Cup career maybe?) so I think it’s likely that the emotions of being so close to a huge win plus a slight depression “relapse” cause him to sometimes overreact after being so close? IDK, I’m not a doctor, but if he hadn’t gone through serious depression a few years ago I think we likely wouldn’t see this much emotion out of him. Just my 2 cents.

kb

Forget the DR. stuff. SO CLOSE???????????????? OMFG

Dale EarnHog

I mean yeah, I would call P2 close. Was the margin of victory close? No. But he knows if he executes that restart better, with the long run speed they had, he likely runs Harvick down. He was slightly closing on him in the last 5 laps.

DoninAjax

Bubba should have caressed the wall with the right rear. That would have made his car fast enough to catch Harvick.

Echo

Ssshhhhhh

DoninAjax

Maybe he hasn’t picked up on that yet. Not surprising!

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