Bubba Wallace answers slump with season best day at Martinsville

This is the third top-five of the season for the 23 team

Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Bubba Wallace righted the ship on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway with a season best fourth place finish.

But more importantly, the 23XI Racing No. 23 team responded to a bit of adversity from the past month, answering a stretch of five races where they failed to crack the top-10 after starting the season with a pair of fifth-place finishes.

The stretch where the campaign started to go off the rails included a 35th at Vegas, 16th at Phoenix, 29th at Bristol, 15th at Austin and just a 13th at Richmond, despite running inside the top-10 for most of the night.  

Wallace not only earned his third top-five, but also ran there all afternoon, in the same group as the three Hendrick Motorsports cars that ran 1-2-3 and boss man Denny Hamlin, who also led laps in the closing stage.

It wasn’t for a lack of effort that Wallace couldn’t get a few more spots in overtime.

“I know, I know,” said Wallace on pit road afterwards. “I was trying so hard. I’d get to the leader’s back bumper too late in both stages. Hey that’s just something for us to continue to work on and be better.”

He finished second in both of the first two stages so the pace to challenge for the win was certainly there.

“We had speed,” he said. “We had a lot of speed and it was fun to run up front and figure out what we needed to be better. I thought we were really good on the long run, but we got behind too early on the last stop and that just kind of set us apart. So, all in all, to come out top five was really good for us.”

The month-plus of bad races actually forced crew chief Bootie Barker and Wallace to have what the driver described as a ‘come to Jesus meeting’ to make sure they were all on the same page. They were, but it is easy for seasons to spiral after a stretch like that, so it left Wallace heartened that everyone executed at Martinsville.

“I thought everybody executed really well today,” Wallace said. “Maintained on pit road, made great adjustments and just got behind on that last one and I’m sure it’s a tenth of air pressure. That small of an adjustment can take you out, so we’ll figure it out.”

From his standpoint, a team that proves to continue to be capable of runs like this, will also reach victory lane in time.

“We do a lot of things that hurt our results, there’s no doubt about it,” Wallace said. “But we’re all taking big self-reflection [moments] over the last couple of months and being like, ‘Hey, let’s get our stuff together.’ And we know what we’re capable of. It’s days like this. I’ll continue to take top four finishes because eventually, your name will be thrown in the winner’s circle.”

Matt Weaver is a Motorsports Insider for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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