I think it’s safe to call Bubba Wallace a restrictor plate ace at this point. The driver of the No. 23 McDonalds Toyota Camry has a knack for keeping his car in one piece to battle for the win late in races at Daytona and Talladega and in Sunday’s Daytona 500, Wallace came home with yet another top finish as he crossed the line in second behind race-winner Austin Cindric.
It appeared Wallace’s race could have been over when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was sent careening into his right front fender with six laps remaining, but somehow, the car held up and Wallace was able to give one last charge in hopes of a win.
In the end, he etched his second-career Daytona 500 second-place finish.
Second is nice, but Wallace doesn’t race for second. The 28-year old simply wants to rack up wins.
“Dejection and failure,” Wallace said of his emotions following the runner-up finish. “We succeeded, we succeeded on all levels, but we failed at the same time. Going through that and trying to ride that is super tough. Maybe two days, maybe three, maybe a freaking week, I’ll get over this.”
Wallace, who won last fall at Talladega Superspeedway, said that after looking at a replay that there was not much more he could have done in the closing laps to put himself in a better position to potentially win the race.
Only one move, a dirty one, could have given him a chance to win and Wallace thinks even that wouldn’t have given him a chance to get around Cindric, who had put himself in the winning position in the frantic final moments of the race.
“I think wrecking his ass, but yeah, he still would have won by the time we would have hit, he would have crossed the line,” Wallace joked.
In the end, Wallace simply didn’t have enough of a push from behind to make anything happen on the final lap.
“If I could have had more help from behind, but who knows how much that damage was really hurting us,” Wallace said. “Who knows, but we’ll take it.”
Despite the near-miss for the win, Wallace had an incredible day again at Daytona as he led a total of 12 laps on the day. And as the race transitioned to the closing portion, he had positioned himself into a place where he was working with Kyle Busch on the high line of the track.
Wallace received numerous hard bump drafts from Busch, who was attempting to keep the two Toyotas at the front of the pack. Wallace said it was fun drafting with Busch but that things got a little squirrely for a bit.
“At the beginning, I was like, ‘this ain’t bad,’ and then we had some moments and I was like, ‘alright let’s not let our guard down here,’ but Kyle is one of the best at pushing, so I appreciate that,” Wallace explained. “We were trying to move the line, maybe we should have stayed top there to keep that line rolling. It’s always interesting being pushed by him.”
Wallace, who has a large portion of haters, says he isn’t worried about whether his finish converted haters into new fans.
“Don’t matter what I do, dog. I could give everyone a million bucks, they still going to hate me,” Wallace stated.
Love him or hate him, Wallace put on another impressive show at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, and he begins year two of his tenure at 23XI Racing with some solid momentum.
Just got to pray harder for rain.