Runner-up finish not worth celebrating for Bubba Wallace

BROOKLYN, Mich. — Bubba Wallace wasn’t in the mood to celebrate his fourth consecutive top-10 finish. Instead, he lamented what might have been after placing second Sunday to Kevin Harvick at Michigan International Speedway.

Wallace had a near-perfect weekend, winning the pole and finishing second, but he needs a win to make the playoffs after a variety of issues this season have derailed the 23XI Racing team in several races.

So, Wallace wasn’t in the mood to rejoice in his best finish since placing second in the season-opening Daytona 500.

“Second doesn’t get you in the playoffs,” Wallace said. “This is way worse than Daytona. Daytona, we kind of just fell into that one. This one we had the car.

“Got behind a little bit on adjustments in the middle of the race. I didn’t think we were going to get back up there. It was so hard to pass. Aero sensitivity in these cars is just nuts. Just had to grind and stay hungry and get us up there, and next thing you know I made the wrong choice on a restart.”

The final restart with 35 laps to go was the key point of the race.

“Took the top there on the restart,” Wallace told NBC Sports’ Parker Kligerman. “Thought I could hang with (Harvick), and just got to racing (Kyle Larson) and (Joey Logano). (Logano) did a good job of getting another Ford contract, helping a Ford win.”

Harvick explained what happened on that restart: “I knew I needed to drive it in the corner far enough. (Larson) had given me such a good push. I had a car length, and I think Bubba got about up to my door.

“I knew that if we can just get off Turn 2, we’d have a chance. And then they were side-by-side. We drove down into Turn 1 on the next lap, and I don’t know what happened. They all wound up all goofed up down there.”

Larson explained what happened: “(Logano) got to (Wallace’s) inside. We were all kind of choked down. And Bubba just ran in really hard to try and clear me, and I think he got loose. His air got me loose. I washed up the track, and that was the end of our race.”

That was the key for Harvick.

“I just was hoping that (Wallace) didn’t cycle out to be the second car because then we were going to have a pretty constant race on our hands,” he said. “But the more they raced, the further we got away.”

There weren’t enough laps left for Wallace to catch Harvick.

“The rule here is … not race side-by-side for too long to let people get away, especially the leader,” Wallace said. “Me, Logano and Larson, we were all going for it. No one was going to lift in (Turn) 1. I don’t know what happened to (Larson). Me and Logano came out and (Logano) got in front of me.

“If we were able to clear him at that moment, maybe we could have made a run. Just stayed too long behind Logano.”

Even so, many people were telling Wallace he had done well.

But the words did little to soothe Wallace.

He said “deep, deep, deep down” such comments mean much to him, but Wallace added: “I have enough voices in my head that are telling me otherwise.”

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