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“Just a Bummer": Kyle Larson Wishes He Could Take Back One Thing from Texas

A late wreck with Bubba Wallace ended what was shaping up to be a spectacular day for the Hendrick Motorsports wheelman.

By Andrew Woodin
Kyle Larson enters his car before a qualifying race

After scoring positive outings in the NASCASR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 16, Kyle Larson had high hopes that he’d find the right gear for the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 400 and continue to motor into the Round of 12 with the same elite speed he had had all year. Well, that was the plan, at least.

The 2021 Cup Series champion and Bubba Wallace had been doing the Texas two-step all day, battling for positioning as they traded paint on the 1.5-mile oval track that saw Yung Money lead dozens of laps before taking Stage 2. The young speedsters were neck-and-neck for the lead after a restart with 20 laps to go when calamity reared its ugly head. As Larson and Wallace came around Turn 1 with Larson on the inside, the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro lost traction – Dale Earnhardt Jr. mentions on the broadcast he was using old tires – and the back of his car appeared to swing up around Wallace in the No. 23 Toyota Camry, spinning Larson hard into the wall.

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A dejected Larson reflected on the incident with Wallace that ended up derailing the 31-year-old’s day in the Lone Star State.

“Just a bummer,” opined Larson after the race, according to NASCAR. “I wasn’t expecting to get loose in like that underneath the 23. I was trying to get my shape into [Turn] 1 and should’ve gave a little more space.”

Bubba Wallace before a race

“If I could just replay it again, I would just give me more space into [Turn] 1 and race it out off of 2 and eventually the bottom would’ve won out, so I was just trying to get it all too quickly and should’ve just worked for another corner,” he added

Despite a dismal 31st-place finish, Larson sits above the Round of 8 cutline, padded by a narrow margin of only two points.

Wallace’s day turned out much differently. After starting on the pole, the 23XI driver led a race-high 111 laps of 267 and had the lead with only a handful of laps remaining in the event before ultimately sliding to third as William Byron won the inaugural race of the Round of 12 and Ross Chastain finished second.

Wallace, who races for Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan on their jointly owned 23XI Racing, realized after the event that he let one slip away.

“We’re racing for a win,” stated Wallace, according to Motorsport. “I just hate it. I should have just kept my line into [Turn] 3 and forced William to get tight. But we’re so vulnerable in these cars, right? Just upset with myself.”

“Really needed a win there, and it was a good showing,” added Wallace. “I don’t know where that puts us. I don’t really care. But I know what I did, and I choked.”

While that doesn’t build much confidence for Wallace and fans of the Alabama native, the good news is he’s got Talladega circled in this round – a race he’s won at the past. After his third-place finish in Texas, he leaves the Longhorn State better than he started this round. Unfortunately, the bad news is he’s the first driver below the cutoff line and one of four drivers who could next be on the chopping block.

Pressed about what he took away from the Texas race, Wallace noted that it all comes down to not making mistakes.

“You’ve just got to process things slower,” Wallace revealed to Motorsport. “I feel like I’ve made a massive improvement in that, processing things a little bit better, but when it comes down to crunch time, you have to keep it all in check. …We grinded, come out with a good solid points today. Appreciate everybody’s support and effort, and we’ll go on to Talladega.”