LOUDON, NH – For once, nothing broke, backfired or needed explaining with Bubba Wallace and his 23XI Racing team.
“It’s been hell for me the last month,” he told NBC Sports’ Kim Coon after his third-place finish Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
It’s been like two months for Wallace and his team.
But Sunday was the day when things went well. Wallace earned his third-10th finish of the season and his best result since finishing second in the Daytona 500.
“We’ve been very competitive all year, and we’ve had cars that can do that,” Wallace said. “Finally, it’s good to see this coming to fruition. That’s how our tribes will be if we continue to do that.
“Just take a page out of the book for everyone on the team to learn from. Personally, I made a lot of mistakes today, especially in the last 20 laps and tried not to lose focus. You’ve got two really good guys behind (Kevin) Harvick and (Martin) Truex.
“It’s all about hitting your marks. I can go back and look and know how I can do better. I believe we can do better, bring a better car. We did really well today, I’m proud of everyone, but you can always be better, right?”
His last top-10 finish was two months ago at Kansas, but a top-10 finish wasn’t important to the team. Wallace had one of the fastest cars of the day but two road penalties sent him back each time. Wallace left the concert in frustration, telling NBC Sports that “the pit crew sucks.”
Two weeks later, Wallace’s car was partially damaged in an incident near the end of the second phase at the Coca-Cola 600. Because of Wallace’s actions, he was on the damaged car policy and had three laps to slow down. speed. The team told him to leave the resume pack to avoid another incident. Wallace did not meet the speed limit, following his team’s instructions and NASCAR stopped the car after it failed to meet the speed limit. A team error ended Wallace’s streak early.
Two weeks later, Wallace finished at Sonoma when his engine blew after nine of 110 laps.
Earlier this month, brake problems ended Wallace’s race at the start of Road America.
Since being ranked 10th at Kansas, Wallace has finished four of 26 or better in the last six races.
Not having trouble in New Hampshire means a five-time finish.
“He probably only had 10 cars, maybe close to fifth place, but he did well, placing the whole race,” Mike Wheeler, race director for 23XI Racing, told NBC Sports.
“Recently the emphasis has been on trying to make sure we’re competitive.”
The other day Kevin Harvick was closing the gap on the playoff cutline, Christopher Bell’s win gave Harvick the lead with six games remaining in the regular season.
Harvick trailed Bell by 19 points heading into the final round at New Hampshire. Harvick ran well in the first two rounds, outscoring Bell 15-7 in the rounds. That closed Harvick’s lead on Bell to 11 points entering the final round.
Everything changed during a caution on Lap 206 of the 301-lap race for Todd Gilliland Events.
Crew chief Rodney Childers called for Harvick to stop with two tires. Childers told NBC Sports that he saw Kyle Larson walk through the field at the start of the race with two tires and thought it would help Harvick, who had one of the stronger cars.
But the pit stop didn’t go as well as expected. As Harvick came out of the pit, Austin Dillon got in front of Harvick. They made contact, slowing Harvick.
“That cost us two lines on the restart,” Childers told NBC Sports. “If we had put two tires and started two rows at the front, maybe it would have been a little bit better.”
Harvick repeated inside the third row, behind Truex. After the green wave, Harvick jumped under Truex and went three laps. Truex was in the middle. Harvick made the pass and was seventh on Lap 210. Bell was 10th.
But Bell passed Kyle Busch, Truex and Harvick on the next lap to move into seventh, starting his run to the front, aided by the four-tire suspension.
Bell became the 14th different winner this season, leaving only two playoffs open for drivers without a win. That put Truex on the cutting edge. He leads Harvick by 68 points.
“If you’re not going to win,” said Childers, “you probably shouldn’t be in it anyway.”
No call from NASCAR last week he helped participate in the success of Christopher Bell.
Bell was ejected shortly after leaving the pit lane last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway. There were few cars on the pit road and the tire rolled slowly and didn’t go very far.
Earlier this season, NASCAR changed its rule on loose tires that allowed it to penalize a team for losing a tire on pit road. Series officials decided not to penalize Bell’s team because the tire did not travel far from the pit lane and did not touch anyone else on pit road.
Had NASCAR chosen to penalize Bell’s team, crew chief Adam Stevens and two crew members would have been suspended for four races. This would have started in New Hampshire if the group had not appealed.
Stevens said it was important not to receive the penalty because it would have come a week after the team swapped tires with Bubba Wallace’s team for a tire change.
“MeIt would have been a bigger deal for the guys on the wall than it would have been without my physical presence,” Stevens said on Sunday’s victory. “With all the equipment and communication, communication channels that we have, if I was (at Joe Gibbs Racing) it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Of course my two engineers are very capable, and can answer any questions I may need to answer without my writing. It won’t slow us down I don’t think.
“But if you go back to the recording studio with the pit crew, we had one week to go to Atlanta, and this was our second week to be able to join.
“I don’t think you can do a few more, use all these challenges, and obviously we feel like we’re going really well. Bringing in a couple of new guys would be difficult. I think that would be his story.”