Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Out Loud at Texas: Bubba Wallace’s Big Mistake

What Happened?

William Byron held off Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace after a late race restart at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday (Sept. 24) to win his sixth NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season. Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin finished close behind in fourth and fifth, respectively.

The victory marks Hendrick Motorsports’ 300th Cup Series win in its existence and the most for the No. 24 since 2007 with Jeff Gordon.

See also
William Byron Survives Wild Final Laps to Win at Texas

But What Really Happened?

Forgive me. I’m going to be a bit of couch racer today.

Wallace only had to stay in his lane to beat Byron off the exit of turn 4 with six laps to go. If he could do that, his victory and a ticket into the playoff Round of 8 was all but secured.

That’s it. That’s all he had to do.

But instead, he tried to block Byron.

Sunday had started off with such positivity, too. After winning only his second career Cup Series pole the day before, Wallace’s No. 23 Toyota was looking at a clear track ahead of him when the pace car rolled off before the green flag. After narrowly escaping a brutal Round of 16 with his championship hopes intact, it was an even sweeter sight knowing he was starting the next round on the right track.

Wallace took the green flag and led 70 laps in the first stage. Unfortunately, he was unable to score the stage win after pit strategy put him behind the top 10.

Stage two was more of the same. After leading an additional 27 laps, Wallace faded near the end and only scored two stage points after fading all the way back to ninth. It was a great start in terms of laps led, but oddly enough, it wouldn’t amount to much in terms of championship points.

It at least ended with the most laps led of his career and with a third-place finish — his best result since his win at Kansas Speedway last year.

But it could have been so much more.

There is arguably no driver in the Cup Series garage that is harder on himself than Wallace, constantly blaming himself for losses and what has been a winless season so far in 2023.

And Texas will likely be no different. After leading the most laps of the day and even leading the race with only six laps to go, the No. 23 team missed what may have been their best opportunity to win and advance into the playoff Round of 8.

But instead, he’ll have to start the wild card races of Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL two points below the cut line.

Who Stood Out?

But before Wallace could make his blunder, Kyle Larson was the man to beat yet again.

While Wallace had led the most laps on Sunday with 112, Larson found himself leading the second-most with 99. Late in the going as the sun began to touch the Texan horizon, Larson led the way and was by far the fastest car on the track.

Just how fast, you ask?

Out of all 36 cars in the entire 267-lap event, Larson was the only driver to run a lap time under 29 seconds. On lap 216, the No. 5 ran a 28.832-second circuit around the 1.5-mile track.

No one else came close to that. In fact, it was the fastest lap all day by nearly four tenths of a second (0.400).

Even more sweet for the 2021 Cup champion, he was on the road to be the one to earn Hendrick Motorsports its 300th Cup victory.

It all was shaping up to be yet another dominating win in Larson’s favor.

Who Fell Flat?

Until 19 laps to go, that is.

In a late race caution, Larson and crew chief Cliff Daniels found themselves with the choice of either pitting for tires and losing the lead, or staying out and retaining their coveted track position.

They chose the latter, and when around 13 other drivers did the same, Larson looked like he was in prime position for Mr. Hendrick’s win No. 300.

His only problem? He had a very hungry Wallace restarting alongside him. When they finally dropped the green flag and piled into turn 1, Wallace held his line well after a strong restart and kept the No. 5 from clearing him. The two remained stuck together for a whole lap before reaching turn 1 again.

But when they did, Larson couldn’t hold his inside line anymore and slipped up the track.

And into Wallace.

Larson never was able to return to the race and was credited with a 31st-place finish.

With a victory in stage two, he was able to salvage some points from the endeavor. However, his mishap now has him only two points above the cut line — and the same driver that he had made contact with in Wallace.

See also
Kyle Larson Leaves Texas Empty-Handed After Turn 1 Wipeout

Better Than Last Time?

Last year’s main event at Texas was plagued by blown tire madness as fans had to constantly witness their favorite drivers hit the wall in blown tire after blown tire and a Texas record-breaking amount of caution flags as a result.

Sunday was nowhere near as bad.

But it was still pretty chaotic.

With 16 cautions in 2022, this past weekend’s 11 doesn’t seem like that much in comparison to race stoppage. That is a Texas two-step in the right direction to be sure.

But remember last year was 500 miles, a whole 67 laps more than there were on Sunday.

With 22 lead changes, (while less than last year’s record 36) Sunday seemed pretty average as modern-day Texas races go in terms of competition.

Whether that’s good or bad, the jury’s still out to lunch.

But they’re about to walk back in with a verdict soon, and they’re probably not going to have good news.

Paint Scheme of the Race

It may have been another normal race Texas for the Cup Series, but what wasn’t normal was the collage of new paint schemes making their debuts this weekend.

While there are a few honorable mentions, including Erik Jones‘ simple yet shiny silver Dallas vs. Everybody scheme and yet another appealing Tyler Reddick 23XI Racing Air Jordan design.

But on design alone, one scheme seemed to stand out more than others.

Ty Gibbs‘ Interstate Batteries scheme may have been a color reversal scheme, but when was the last time we’ve seen a simple color reversal scheme look so good?

The original green lightning bolt scheme was already easy on the eyes, but the black primary with green secondary offered a great-looking alternative that probably would have worked even better in a night race.

Maybe one day it actually will.

What’s Next?

The biggest wild card race in the playoffs.

The Cup Series returns to Talladega Superspeedway for its second trip to the 2.67-mile oval of the year. Qualifying for the YellaWood 500 will be live on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 4:30 p.m. ET with the race being televised live on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC.

About the author

Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021. Currently, he is the lead writer for the weekly Thinkin' Out Loud column and one of our lead reporters. Beforehand, he wrote for IMSA shortly after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.

Follow Dalton on Twitter @PitLaneLT

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i couldn’t get over how many tire issues there were. i can’t believe that many crews made pit stop errors when tightening the lug.

bubba needs to race the entire race. just cause you lead the most laps doesn’t make you the winner. he focused on the moment instead of focusing on the end result.

when i saw harvick in top 5 i was hoping he’d win.

onto dega and the crap shoot.


Wasting ink, & space on color schemes is pretty pointless.
This is a car race, not a car show.
It would be more productive to highlight the sponsors & tell us a little about their businesses, & not just for the top cars, but all the way through the pack. W/O them, things would be more like a local race where Joe’s used cars kicks in a few bucks.

Carl D.

No! With the glut of commercials we’re forced to endure, the last thing I want to see is a sponsor story.


Sixty-six laps under caution and seventy-seven on Saturday. TSN didn’t bother to show the event on Saturday. That’s a lot of commercials. The 78 got 3 free passes and somehow wound up on the lead lap. Was anyone else waiting for the caution at the end for Bubba? If the 51 was still in the event I would have bet on him but the 15 was my second choice. How the car can spin out all by itself when he isn’t going fast enough to wear out the tires is something to behold. But that is why the 15, 51 and 78 are in the event.


At Texas !!! 66, your kidding aren’t you ! That is utterly ridiculous unless track personnel have no clue what they are doing. Wow, sponsors are getting their money’s worth. I honestly expected another caution to give bubba another chance. Wait till next week .


That’s 99 miles right, of cautions

Kevin in SoCal

I hate when they shorten races, but in this case, I can see it was a good idea.

Why is Talladega qualifying so late in the day? I assume its because of the truck race first but 4:30pm seems way late.

NBC didn’t even mention the truck race, they only said there is no XFINITY race. Shame on them.


i guess they figure that the truck race will be over in 3 hrs to qualify at 4:30 pm eastern time. it’s still sunny until a little after 7 pm here in ga, so they’ll get it in. track should be cooler by end of qualifying.

i miss the days when i’d take off and head over to track on friday for practice and qualfiying. now i don’t bother going. i’ll think about it when i see the haulers heading to dega in a few days while in traffic in atlanta.


Was it Bubba’s decision or the Spotter giving him bad info? He beats himself most of the time. The cars are decent but he’s got to get his head in the game. I’m not a fan. He’s a very unlikeable person as far as I’m concerned, but he does it to himself most of the time.

As far as color schemes, they change so much now that I have trouble remember who is driving what. That’s why I hated the Darlington throw back schemes.

Carl D.

Bubba does come across as unlikable, but I think he’s just awkward at relating to the public. He’s not an aw-shucks kind of guy. His raw talent is obvious, but like his boss Hamlin, his head is his own worst enemy.

Bill B

I was wondering why he blamed himself at all. The only reason he was in that position to begin with was because of the late caution that bunched the field up and gave him a shot at the 5. Until then he had zero chance of winning. Lady luck gave him a chance and he took it. Had he been in Larson’s position, then he could act like he screwed up and gave a race away.

I also think whoever in the booth declared him the best at restarts was taking great liberties with whatever “facts” or “stats” he was referencing.


It wasn’t the booth, bubba stated it in his interview, go look

Bill B

I definitely heard one of the guys in the booth mention it during the race. I saw him say it in his interview as well, but I definitely heard it from the booth.


At Nascar web site during bubba’s interview bubba said ” best restarter in the game, just gave it up, that’s all, I choked ” bubba names himself best restarter in the game in after race interview

Bill B

I’m throwing the red challenge flag. LOL

I guess I will ask the guy that pays the most attention since he critiques the broadcast:

Phil Allaway, did someone in the booth first mention that Bubba had the best restarts this year (and I believe Larson the second best) during the race?

Bill B

BTW, I am not saying that Bubba didn’t say it after the race, I definitely heard that. I’m saying that someone in the booth made that claim DURING the race.


Ya, on the restart with him and Larson up front, the booth said that Bubba was the best on restarts and Larson was 2nd best.

Bill B

Glad I wasn’t hallucinating. Thanks


I think Bubba did all he could do at the end without wrecking himself or anyone else. Be happy with 3rď and move on. Save some of that choke for Denny.

Let’s not forget to blame the track while we’re at it.

I thought there was too much talk about climate change. They went way overboard on that topic.

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