Runner-up finish not worth celebrating for Bubba Wallace

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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.”

Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

Saturday Talladega Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.