Bubba Wallace did everything but win the September 24 NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway. He started on the pole, led a career-high 111 laps, and ran up front late. However, when the checkered flag waved, the No. 23 car crossed the finish line behind William Byron and Ross Chastain.
After failing to claim his first win of 2023, which would have automatically advanced him to the Round of 8, the 23XI Racing driver met with reporters and couldn’t hide his frustration and disappointment.
“Had one of the worst restarts when you’re the best restarter, and that’s what happened when the time mattered,” Wallace said, before pausing as a chorus of boos rained down from the fans remaining in the stands when the Big Hoss TV on the backstretch showed him on the big screen. “Oh, I’m booing myself, too. So, we’re good. I’m one of y’all today.
“Just hate it for my team. Hate it for sponsors. They put in so much effort for giving me the best racecars to go out and win races, giving it up like that is heartbreaking, for sure. Devastating.”
Bubba Wallace Has Been Embracing the Boos
Hearing boos is nothing new for Wallace. The 29-year-old is consistently one of the most booed during driver introductions. He’s leaned into playing the villain role over the last year, along with team co-owner Denny Hamlin.
While the three-time Daytona 500 winner received all the attention for his post-race remarks following his win in the September 16 Bristol race, Wallace also joined in on the fun during his interview after advancing to the Round of 12, which many experts didn’t predict would happen.
“Yeah, it was,” Wallace said of the difficulty in his last run to NBC’s Dave Burns, then paused as boos filled the air. “God, I love that s*** right there. Counted us out. As Coco Gauff said, ‘All they’re doing is adding fuel to the fire.’ I love it.”
A few moments later when an NBC camera showed him sitting on the ground cooling down beside his car, he put his index finger to his lips, signaling how he’s quieting his critics — a sign he’s done following other accomplishments, including his 2022 Kansas win.
Bubba Wallace Running Better Than Most Expected
Wallace is wrapping up what is undeniably his career-best year. He has yet to make a trip to Victory Lane in 2023, which he’s done in his previous two years with 23XI Racing, but he’s been steady all season and has performed best when it mattered most.
In the last month of the regular season, he battled multiple drivers for the final spots to advance to the playoffs. He made it on points by running consistently in the top 15, including on road courses like Watkins Glen, which aren’t considered his best tracks.
Making the postseason for the first time in his Cup career was a big accomplishment, and, quite frankly, many thought it would end in the first round. It didn’t.
On a blazing-hot weekend in the Lone Star State, Wallace showed from qualifying through the race’s checkered flag that he was not going away quietly. He recorded his best finish of the season, moved up to within a couple points of the cutline, and made plenty of noise in the process.
Not too loud of a noise to drown out the boos. Wallace welcomes those. The proof is in the results.