Bubba Wallace was disappointed to come up short of a $1 million victory on Sunday night at North Wilkesboro Speedway but found solace in the showing of 23XI Racing.
“We won best of the rest,” Wallace said of his second-place finish in the NASCAR All-Star Race.
On any other Sunday, the speed Wallace’s No. 23 Toyota Camry had might have carried him to the win. But not when Kyle Larson was untouchable in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and led nearly half the race. Larson’s margin of victory over Wallace was 4.5 seconds after 200 laps, but Larson led Wallace by 12 seconds at halfway.
“Larson was lights out, so congrats to him and Cliff [Daniels] and those guys,” Wallace said. “They’ve been hitting it on the head really all season. So, to run second to them is not a bad thing, but to run second in the All-Star Race sucks. You go home with nothing.
“But proud of my team, our Columbia Toyota Camry was super strong. Proud of our long-run efforts; knew it would come down to that after my first lap in practice. I think if we had a full day to go back to the shop before the race, it would have been nice because I think we could really nail some things and get closer to (Larson).
“To keep our name in the mix and in the hat is super important for us, and the momentum train is still real, still rolling. So, I’m pumped for our team (and) Tyler [Reddick] finishing third. That was good. It was fun.”
Wallace was on the same tire strategy as Larson and saw similar results in coming through the field. The two were among a handful of drivers who were called to pit road when the only natural caution flew on lap 16.
It took Larson just 34 laps to drive from the rear of the field to the lead. Wallace wasn’t as quick in making up the track position but did get to second by the lap 100 halfway caution.
Larson and Wallace remained the top two off pit road after making their second and final pit stops. Not much changed for the two through the end of the race, which wound up uneventful in terms of passing for the lead, controversy, or crash action.
“I thought it was fun,” Wallace said. “I don’t know how it looked from TV or the stands, but I enjoyed passing cars and throttle management. It took you back to what I’m guessing it was like in the 90s.”
Sunday night was Wallace’s career-best finish in three All-Star Race appearances.