DAYTONA BEACH Fla — Bubba Wallace came one spot shy of scoring his first career NASCAR Cup Series victory which would have stamped his name into the 2021 playoffs as a result. Instead, the best he can do is 17th as he will miss out of the playoffs in his first season at 23XI Racing.
Wallace, had a good car tonight. He felt like this was the most confident he’s ever felt coming into a race like this one. He was 20th in Stage 1 and ninth in Stage 2. He felt like his No. 23 Toyota had a shot at the win in Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400, but for some reason, his car didn’t want to go on the final restart in overtime.
“I don’t know, that last restart our car felt slow, sluggish,” he said.
Luckily for him, a big crash occurred on the final lap in Turn 3 and Wallace found a hole to come through unscathed. It was just a little bit too late as the caution promptly fell and he was frozen in third place.
“The seas parted. When that wreck happened, I stayed in it, came out third. Not what we needed,” Wallace continued.
“Stay in it, that’s all you can do. I needed to win. I was comfortable taking a hit if we were caught up in it. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and I came out third. I was happy with that, but we needed to win to get in.
“Bummer. Solid day. I mean, we led some laps. This is the best I’ve kept a speedway car clean. Just some nose damage. Thanks to Columbia. I gave them a good run.”
In saying that, Wallace wasn’t happy with how little the Toyota’s worked together in the end. He was on the end of a lot of talking to’s for how he races with teammates on superspeedway’s. They get critical of him on moves he makes and his confidence in running in the pack.
Tonight, he felt great but said it was reciprocated.
“I’m a little frustrated. I’m the one that gets called out for not working with teammates, and I’m the one that gets left hanging,” he said. “That’s the reason why Ford is in Victory Lane, because they always work together.
“Unfortunate-tempo, but we wanted to win. I was the most prepared I’d ever been for this speedway stuff, and third.”
As to what the goals are over the final 10 races of the season?
“17th in points,” Wallace said. “That’s what we want to do. Just continue to climb from here. Appreciate everybody that is a part of this program. A fun regular season figuring out this team with 23XI. Toyota jumping onboard, being a part of it, taking me back under their wing. All of our partners, DoorDash, Columbia, DoorDash, Dr. Pepper, McDonald’s.
“It just stings.”
Wallace, was fifth in this race last year as this was just his second top five since that point. That’s why he was in the position that he was in to win Saturday night’s race but instead, he will be celebrating with his best friend Ryan Blaney who was victorious in his No. 12 Ford.
“Up and down regular season for us. Thankful for opportunity. It’s a brand new team. Everybody is still figuring each other out. I’ve always said our superspeedway stuff is good. It’s good to give us a finish we deserved. I don’t think we were a winning car, so I can’t hang my head too much, but knowing that we needed a win and we came up just short stings a little bit.”