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NASCAR's Bubba Wallace “Boos” Himself After Letting Texas Playoff Race Slip Away
Michael Jordan’s intrepid wheelman performed well, but it wasn’t enough to capture the checkered flag.
By all accounts, the AutoTrader Echopark Automotive 400 at Texas Motor Speedway was shaping up to be one of Bubba Wallace’s best NASCAR Playoff races, let alone his best Cup Series event of the season.
Wallace, who entered the Round of 12’s first race last among active postseason drivers, won the Busch Light Pole, clocking a blistering pace of 188.337 mph to edge out the hometown hero Chris Buescher by .039 seconds. Capturing his second career pole and first of the season positioned the Mobile, Alabama native for a triumphant outing in Fort Worth, Texas, and Wallace did what he could to seize the opportunity. He clearly had the fastest car on the day, leading a race-high 111 laps. Wallace even managed to outduel Kyle Larson and survive contact from the Hendrick Motorsports superstar with 20 laps to go, which derailed Yung Money’s otherwise stellar day.
Unfortunately, Wallace had a bit of heartbreak in store for him.
The final two restarts proved pivotal with Wallace choosing to line up on the outside on both. Chase Briscoe, who gave Wallace a big shove on the penultimate restart, lined up in the inside spot on the final restart. Appearing to lose sight of William Byron, who went on to win the race, Wallace hesitated as he made his way to the bottom, eliminating his ability to block Byron and Ross Chastain who ended up finishing second.
While speaking with Kyle Dalton of Sportscasting.com, Wallace, his own harshest critic, joined in with the chorus of boos, echoing from the passionate fans still in attendance.
"I'm booing myself too, so we're good,” joked a frustrated Wallace. “Just hate it for my team, for my sponsors. They put so much effort in getting me a car that can win races, and giving it up like that is heartbreaking for sure."
While speaking to NBC Sports, Wallace explained how he let the race slip away from him in the final moments.
“Briscoe got tight underneath me, and that lost all my momentum,” Wallace recounted. “The best defense mechanism is to pack air on somebody’s left rear, and that shoves the outside car up, and that gave Byron a massive run. I should have just held my line into [Turn] 3 instead of chasing down. Just gave it away there.”
In the wake of not capitalizing on a golden opportunity to earn a much-needed playoff victory, Wallace admirably put all the blame on his shoulders.
“Third time I fooled myself starting on top,” Wallace revealed to Kim Coon of NBC Sports. “These guys gave me the right information. 14 [Briscoe] was tight, and he sent it off in there. Wasn’t going to stick, but that’s what he’s going to do.”
“We’re racing for a win,” he added. “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? But just upset with myself. Really needed a win there, and it was a good showing. I don’t know where that puts us. I don’t really care. But I know what I did, and I choked.”
Asked what he could’ve done better at or executed differently on, Wallace’s insight into his own weaknesses shed some light on how the 29-year-old is thinking during the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
“Yeah, you’ve just got to process things slower,” stated Wallace. “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. The best restarter in the game gives it up on a restart. Funny how that works.”
Despite the mountain of self-inflicted disappointment Wallace has buried himself under, he does have one historical stat working in his favor: Talladega. If there’s any chance of bouncing back, it lies with the YellaWood 500 this weekend. As a native of Mobile, Wallace could become a hometown hero at the 109th race on the Alabama track where he earned his first Cup Series win in 2021, becoming just the first African-American in NASCAR since Wendell Scott to win in stock car racing’s top flight.