It should have been a moment of celebration for Bubba Wallace and the No. 23 23XI Racing team Saturday night in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Wallace scored his best finish of the season with a second-place effort (was originally scored third, but a DQ for Chris Buescher elevated Wallace to second), following a huge last lap crash, and it marks the best-ever finish for 23XI Racing.
But after climbing from the car, you could see the frustration and emotion oozing from Wallace’s pores.
He knows a victory was within reach. He knows a Playoff berth could have happened. Instead, his best friend Ryan Blaney scored his second-consecutive win.
According to Wallace, the reason Blaney — who drives a Ford — made it to victory lane is because the Ford stable of drivers actually help each other throughout the entire race for the greater good of the manufacturer.
The 27-year old Wallace doesn’t feel his fellow Toyota drivers do the same.
“I’m a little frustrated. I’m the one who gets called out for not working with teammates and I’m the one who gets left hanging,” Wallace exclaimed in frustration. “There’s a reason Ford is in victory lane, because they always work together.”
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Wallace ran well throughout the duration of Saturday’s race.
He led a total of eight laps, and he missed a pair of monstrous crashes in the closing laps to put himself in position, but in the end, his No. 23 car didn’t quite have enough pep on the final restart to get the job done.
“That last restart our car felt slow,” Wallace said. “Just sluggish. The seas parted when that wreck happened. I just stayed in it. Came out third. But that’s not what we needed. Bummer, but solid day. We went up there and led some laps.”
While it was frustrating, Wallace and the 23XI Racing team are starting to turn things around after a rough start to the season. The Alabama-native, who was eliminated from Playoff contention on Saturday night, now has two top-five finishes this season — more than any season of his four-year NASCAR Cup Series career.
Toby is the Founder, Editor and go-to man for TobyChristie.com. He is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, Toby is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award winning writer, and has followed NASCAR as a fan since 1993.