Bubba Wallace came up one spot short at Michigan International Speedway and shouldered the blame afterward.
Sunday’s second-place finish tied Wallace’s best season result and was his fourth consecutive top-10 finish. But the polesitter had a fast Toyota Camry and felt it was a missed opportunity not to have won the race, apologizing to his team over the radio afterward, saying he failed the No. 23 group.
But the team didn’t want to hear it, telling its driver he did nothing wrong. Wallace led 22 laps from the pole and ran up front all afternoon.
Wallace lined up second on the final restart with 35 laps to go, but the bottom line did get as good a launch as the outside. And Wallace didn’t have as good a pusher in Alex Bowman as Harvick did from Kyle Larson.
Wallace slipped back to third after the restart and spent time fighting with Larson and Joey Logano. Once he regained the second position with 18 laps to go, Wallace was over six seconds behind Harvick and couldn’t erase the deficit.
“[I was] just replaying everything I could have done,” Wallace said of his thoughts afterward. “[Could have] took the top on that restart. I thought I could hang with the 4 [Harvick] and just got to racing the 5 [Larson], and the 22 [Logano] and 22 did a good job of getting another Ford contract, helping a Ford win.
“Just, all in all, an incredible weekend. I appreciate my team. Wish we could have gotten Toyota in victory lane. Wish we could have gotten McDonald’s back in victory lane. She was fast all weekend, man. I’ll wear this one on my heart for a while. I failed everybody.”
The what-ifs that will plague Wallace were all about what he could have done differently on the final restart.
“Got clear of [Larson] sooner; he was doing his part putting it on my quarter there, keeping me tight and just the side-by-side allowed [Harvick] to get away,” Wallace said. “I could have taken the top, pushed the 4, and then I could have been the 5 in that scenario, right? So, just hate it. Hate it for our team. Sucks.”
Michigan continues a string of strong showings for Wallace and his team. Four straight top-10 finishes and career-best results at each of those racetracks. Wallace appeared to have one of, if not the car to beat at Michigan, beginning in practice when he was second fastest before winning the pole. It was the fastest pole speed all year at over 190mph.
And while Wallace was disappointed with the overall result, he was reminded by his crew chief, Bootie Barker and team co-owner, Denny Hamlin, about his stellar showing.
“Just great job all weekend,” Wallace said. “It is a hell of a job for our team. So, there’s a lot of positive in this, but I’m a person that looks at the negative more than the positive. I need to change that, but I want to win so bad, and this was the best opportunity.”