Coming up short in Saturday’s NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway didn’t sit well with the two drivers who had the best shot at overtaking winner Kyle Larson.
Runner-up Kevin Harvick was unhappy with his pit crew. Third-place finisher Kyle Busch had some choice words for the special rules package NASCAR used with the cars.
Harvick didn’t have quite enough to chase Larson completely down by the end of the race, finishing 0.322 seconds behind. He thought his No. 4 Ford had the speed to compete, but his crew was a hindrance during an uncharacteristically slow pit stop.
“The guys did a great job of preparing the race car,” said Harvick, who won Stage 2 of the four-stage race. “They just weren’t ready to make a pit stop on pit road tonight.”
As unhappy as he was, Harvick said he continues to have confidence in the crew, which is led crew chief Rodney Childers.
“They just need to be ready to race; they’ve done it all year,” Harvick said. “You can’t just show up and have it be a disaster. They’ve been great all year. Tonight wasn’t great.”
Busch has been vocal in his dissatisfaction with the new aero package being used this season. There were tweaks made for Saturday’s non-points race, including a single-piece carbon fiber splitter, aimed at creating a more stable aero platform, and a radiator duct that exited through the hood to reduce engine temperatures.
And it still didn’t meet the approval of Busch, who hit the wall with a few laps remaining. Although he stayed in the race, that all but took him out of contention.
“A lot of aero problems,” Busch said. “We had a really fast car, probably the only car that could pass for the lead after a given set of laps. On restarts we couldn’t go anywhere. We just weren’t fast enough on them, but we had long-run speed.
“It’s aero problems. We can’t fricking fix this s--- and it’s annoying as hell, OK?”
Angrier the better for Bubba Wallace
Bubba Wallace started his day not knowing if he would be in the All-Star Race. He ended it finishing fifth.
Wallace, who has admitted recently that he struggles with depression, made the race by winning the second segment of the All-Star Open, the qualifying race held earlier Saturday evening.
That came after Charlotte native William Byron edged him by inches to win the first segment. That finish fired up Wallace, who bumped and banged his Richard Petty Motorsports Chevy with Daniel Suarez’s Ford down the stretch of the second stage of the Open, winning in as nearly as close a manner as Byron did in the first stage.
“Ever since I was a kid, people have said I drive better (angry),” Wallace said. “And I was (angry). But, I thought, ‘let that one go.’ ”
That paved the way for Wallace, winless in his two seasons as a full-time Cup driver, to make the All-Star Race.
“The first thing my mom said after the Open was, ‘You know what that was, that was God, and God hasn’t given up on you yet,’ ” Wallace said. “I realize that. As many dark moments as I’ve had, how many times I’ve given up – and I know I sound like a broken record – it’s been tough. But I keep going.”
Wallace went on to do well in the main event. Running up front with some of the sport’s biggest names made an impression on him.
“Those cars pulled away as I held it wide open and I said, ‘Yeah, we’re done,’ ” Wallace said. “They’re a different class, a different kind of animal up there.”