FORT WORTH, Texas — Just when it seemed Bubba Wallace would win to advance in the Cup playoffs, his chances went away on the final restart with six laps to go.
“I choked,” Wallace told NBC Sports’ Kim Coon.
The result is that Wallace finished third to winner William Byron and runner-up Ross Chastain. Wallace, who entered the Round of 12 last in the standings, is now the first driver outside a transfer spot to the Round of 8 with two races left before the next elimination. It came after he started on the pole and led a career-high 111 laps.
But that didn’t console Wallace shortly after exiting his No. 23 car.
“Can’t have the worst restarts when you’re the best restarter,” Wallace said. “That’s what happened."
As he talked to media on pit road, his NBC interview played on the video board at Texas, drawing boos.
“Oh, I’m booing myself, too, so we’re good,” Wallace said. “I’m one of you all today.
“I just hate it for my team, hate it for my sponsors. They put so much effort into giving me the best race cars to go out and win races and giving it up like that is heartbreaking, for sure. Devastating.”
While Wallace took ownership for not making the right move, a set of circumstances that went back to the next-to-last restart that played a key role in Sunday’s result at Texas Motor Speedway.
That restart will be recalled for when Wallace and Larson dueled side-by-side until Larson, running underneath Wallace’s car, lost control and slid into the wall.
“We just went in there side-by-side and I lost it really quickly and crashed,” Larson told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns.
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) September 24, 2023
But before that incident came a moment that would prove pivotal on the final restart.
Chase Briscoe restarted in the outside lane of the second row behind Wallace. Briscoe gave Wallace a big shove on the restart but it would prove costly.
“I blasted Bubba on the restart,” Briscoe told NBC Sports. “I guess when I did that, it split the splitter in the nose and I didn’t know that at the time. I knew when we ran through (Turns) 3 and 4 on that start, I was super, super tight, but I figured it was maybe tire related or something.”
#NASCAR … Chase Briscoe was a key player in the final two restarts. He explains how what happened on the next-to-last restart impacted him on the final restart and his duel with Bubba Wallace. pic.twitter.com/4BU2aewBhu
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) September 25, 2023
That was due to the damage on the nose of his car from ramming Wallace’s car on the restart. Briscoe said he hit Wallace hard to push him forward, feeling that would be a “huge advantage for both of us.”
After a multi-car wreck, Wallace again chose the outside lane on the front row, while Briscoe moved into the inside spot on that row.
“I thought I had timed it really well,” Briscoe said of the final restart. “I almost cleared him. As soon as I got into the middle (of the turn) I just took off plowing tight and was out of the gas. I think I definitely hit him a little bit, just barely and that just let William get a big run on us and takes us three wide.”
Said Wallace: “Briscoe got tight underneath me and that lost all my momentum. The best defense mechanism is to pack air on somebody’s left rear and that shoves the outside car up and that gave Byron a massive run.
“I should have just held my line into (Turn) 3 instead of chasing down. Just gave it away there.”