NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — The duo of Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick had a strong enough showing in Sunday’s NASCAR All-Star Race, finishing close together near the front of the pack for 23XI Racing. But Wallace’s runner-up evening and Reddick’s third-place effort were behind the stratospheric run of race winner Kyle Larson.
The 23XI teammates recorded their best All-Star Race finishes on a stellar Sunday night at historic North Wilkesboro Speedway. Like Larson, the two were able to drive from further back in the field, but Wallace was still 4.537 seconds behind the dialed-in No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
“We won the best of the rest,” said Wallace in his third All-Star main event. “Larson was lights out, so congrats to him. Cliff (Daniels, No. 5 crew chief) and those guys, 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, right? You go home with nothing but proud of my team.”
Wallace started 10th and Reddick 20th, based on the results of Saturday’s qualifying heats. Because of the track’s well-worn 42-year-old surface, Wallace said he had to go into tire-conservation mode early. “Even saving, I just didn‘t have what he had,” Wallace said of Larson.
Reddick was also on a similar pit-stop strategy to Larson, among those stopping during the race’s first caution period 15 laps in. He gained two positions — from sixth to fourth — when he brought his No. 45 Toyota to the pits at the mid-race break but was unable to gain further ground.
“It was a solid night for us,” Reddick said. “I was really concerned how we were gonna get to the front end. Everyone at 23XI did a really good job of just saying let’s just do something different, and it paid off for us. … I was behind Bubba and just trying to figure out how much he was pushing, saving (tires). I definitely think the proximity, that route that I was running to him, I wasn’t really doing my tires any favors, but had an opportunity or two to get by him but made a mistake at the worst absolute time.”
Dave Rogers, 23XI Racing’s performance director, lauded the pit strategy that put Wallace and Reddick in position to potentially mount a challenge. But a race-changing caution period never materialized, and the second half of the All-Star event went green the rest of the way.
“Really happy with the performance that 23XI is putting on the race track right now,” Rogers told NASCAR.com. “We’re not content. We’ve got a lot more to go. Hats off to the 5 car and HMS — they were the class of the field tonight, and they deserved to win, but second, third, we’re happy.”
Reddick already has a win in the bank (at Circuit of The Americas in March) that has him in the NASCAR Cup Series’ provisional playoff picture. Wallace has two consecutive top-five finishes in points-paying competition that could be momentum-builders at the halfway point of the regular season.
Still, both had to marvel at Larson’s strength and settle for top-three days.
“Hell, it’s been like that ever since he got in the 5 car,” Wallace said. “Every once in a while, he’ll slip up, or Ross (Chastain) will get to him and take him out, but we’ve just got to continue to work hard and be better. We’ve had days where we’re better; we’ve just got to continue to capitalize on those moments and those races and just continue to put our name in the hat.”