Bubba Wallace won the pole, led 22 laps and tied his season-best finish with a runner-up result Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.
It was a career weekend for Wallace, yet there was no celebration from the driver of the No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota following the FireKeepers Casino 400.
With 35 laps to go, Wallace restarted on the inside of the front row alongside Kevin Harvick, who eyed snapping a 65-race winless streak from the outside lane. Harvick got the edge and left Wallace to battle with Kyle Larson and Joey Logano for second place.
Wallace eventually worked past both of them, but it was too late. Harvick took the checkered flag by 2.903 seconds over Wallace, who wasn’t able to chip away at Harvick’s lengthy lead quick enough to battle for his second career win.
By the time he got to pit road, Wallace was left “replaying everything I could have done” differently, he told NBC Sports.
“I thought I could hang with the 4 (Harvick) and just got to racing the 5 and the 22,” Wallace said of his battles with Larson and Logano. “And the 22 did a good job of getting another Ford contract, helping a Ford win. Just all in all, an incredible weekend. Appreciate my team. Wish we could’ve gotten Toyota in Victory Lane. Wish we could’ve got McDonald’s back in Victory Lane.
“She was fast all week, man. Just … I’ll wear this one on my heart for a while. I failed everybody.”
Wallace said he wishes he would have either cleared Larson sooner or taken the top behind Harvick on the restart in hindsight.
“Could’ve taken the top, push the 4 and then I could’ve been (in Larson’s position) in that scenario, right?” Wallace said. “Just hate it. Hate it for our team. Sucks.”
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) August 8, 2022
Crew chief Bootie Barker and 23XI Racing co-owner Denny Hamlin — who wheeled his No. 11 Toyota to a third-place finish behind Wallace — both commended Wallace on his drive and performance throughout the weekend. Saturday’s pole qualifying run was Wallace’s first in NASCAR’s premier level and first ever for 23XI Racing as a team.
Sunday’s runner-up finish also marks Wallace’s third top-five finish in the past four races, highlighting a career-best streak of four-straight top 10s. But Wallace wasn’t in the mood to celebrate those accomplishments on pit road Sunday evening.
“I mean it is a hell of a job for our team, so there’s a lot of positives in this,” Wallace said. “But I’m a person that looks at the negatives more than the positives. I need to change that, but I want to win so bad and this was the best opportunity.”
Wallace also finished second in the season-opening Daytona 500 in February, following his first career victory in a rain-shortened race at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2021.
With Wallace in need of a win to challenge for a playoff position, Daytona marks the regular-season finale on Aug. 27.