RACING

Bubba Wallace enjoys a faultless day, third place at Loudon

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LOUDON, NH — Bubba Wallace’s weekend didn’t start out great. His RV failed to make it to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, pushing him into a hotel room.

On Saturday morning, Wallace quickly changed his fortunes, putting in the best qualifying effort of his career in fourth.

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Coming to the green flag in Sunday’s Ambetter 301, Wallace wasn’t sure he had the racing speed, despite Toyota making a strong outing at Gateway last month, a similar setup to New Hampshire. . But he did have a hot rod.

RELATED: Official Results | Photos on the track

In the first stage, Wallace’s #23 car was the only one able to compete with Martin Truex Jr., even though he was several seconds behind the #19 machine. He finished second, his best stage result of the season on a non-superspeedway.

Wallace remained competitive in stage two, dropping back to 10th place after a series of restarts. And after making its final stop – on a 92-lap run to the finish – the #23 car raced through the field, finishing the race in third position.

“It’s been a bad season for us,” Wallace told a group of reporters after the race. “It’s finally good to come out on top. [We] finally a good race to highlight in addition to the Daytona 500.”

The third place marks Wallace’s best effort since finishing second to Austin Cindric in the “Great American Race”. In the 18 races between Daytona and New Hampshire, the No. 23 team had only one additional top-10 result, at Kansas when it was the top-10 caboose.

Meagan Thompson | NASCAR Digital Media

Speed ​​was not a factor for the No. 23 team; Wallace had plenty. Denny Hamlin, co-owner of 23XI Racing, has said several times this year that this season was the best Wallace has ever had in his racing career.

“We’ve had a lot of speed all year and we’ve had cars capable of that,” Wallace said. “It’s finally good to see this happening. This is what our races can be if we keep doing it. Just take a page out of this book for everyone on the team to learn from.

“I’m sure we can do better; bring a better car and a versatile team. We were excellent today, I’m proud of everyone. You can always be better, can’t you?

The stat sheet would indicate the year has been down, as Wallace now sits 23rd with an average of 20.7, a full position behind last year’s 19.7 pace. It’s safe to say the team, which has had up to eight loose wheels this season, needed a good day’s work.

“You have to crawl before you walk and we fell,” Wallace said. “We couldn’t even crawl. To finally get our feet under us and get a good finish, that’s a good momentum to build on.

Bootie Barker, crew chief for the No. 23 team, said of New Hampshire: “This is only our second clear run, unfortunately. We try, but this is our second clean race.

Knowing the team must win one of the final six races of the regular season to make the playoffs, Wallace believes his efforts in New Hampshire are giving him momentum moving forward. His numbers aren’t stellar at road courses — there are two in the last six races — and there are races at Pocono and Michigan looming as potential fuel-mileage contests.

There’s also Daytona, where the #23 car will be among the pre-race favorites.

Based on the speed Wallace has shown this year, he thinks he can claim the checkered flag in one of the last six events.

“We had top-five speed in a handful of races,” said Wallace, who earned his first top-five finish with 23XI Racing in race two of the Pocono double last season. “To use that and build and show up at Pocono next week, I’m excited about this place. I usually climax there for some reason, and hope it’s for a win.

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