Bubba Wallace took responsibility for the crash between himself and Ryan Blaney on the last lap of Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, ending a potential duel for the win between the two friends.
“I pulled a late block – close, close, close block — and just that sent us around,” Wallace said. “Not the No. 12’s (Blaney) fault, just I honestly thought that he would leave me high and dry coming back around and so just hate it, hate it for my team. That’s how it goes.
“So that was our best, by far, plate race that we’ve ever done, so hat’s off to the No. 23 group, Freddie on top of the roof. Just a great day for us, just a crap result, so…hate it. I caused that one and man, I just thought it’d play out a little bit different — obviously not getting wrecked, but I thought the move would happen coming off through the trioval.”
Wallace’s 23XI Racing Toyota led the field at the white flag with an assist from Blaney. The two surged in the outside lane around Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, who led the inside lane.
“The way we were shoving and pushing, we were kind of getting each other out of whack and sort of moving the momentum forward,” Wallace said. “And then when I got the move, it was, you know, OK, cool, and it was all about defending, and you can’t let your guard down for one second, or you end up in (the infield care center).”
After making the pass for the lead, going into Turn 1, Wallace and Blaney simultaneously moved to the bottom. Blaney, however, still had a run and started moving to the outside, which Wallace chased. The two touched, and Wallace spun to the left, bounced off Keselowski, and spun back into the pack.
“It’s hard to block in these cars,” Blaney said. “I felt like he kind of triple-moved on me; can’t really do that. You block the middle, block the bottom, block the top and I’m there. It’s a shame he got turned, but I don’t know what else I could do besides slam on the brakes and you can’t do that.
“I’m not blaming anybody; it’s just hard racing. As the leader, I would have done the same thing. You’re trying to block and maintain the lead. But as second, I’ve got to take every run I can get and keep my momentum, so it’s just one of those things.”
Busch drove through as the seas parted. He was the leader and winner as the caution came out and ended the race. Blaney finished second.
“I’m mad we didn’t win,” Blaney said of his thoughts after the crash. “That’s the thing that went through my head first.”
The Penske driver said he and Wallace would talk about what happened. He said it “stinks” when there is contact between friends, but doesn’t race Wallace any differently than the rest of the field.
As the race wound down, Wallace was glad to see Blaney around him in the draft.
“Oh, when I saw the No. 12, I was pumped,” said Wallace. “We work well together, obviously, every speedway race, and that’s just the way it goes. Not the No. 12’s fault at all.”
For Blaney, his winless streak goes to 56 races. He led a race-high 47 laps Sunday at Talladega.
When asked if he thinks about what more he can do to win a race, Blaney said, “Every single day.”