By Joseph Eigo and Jonathan Fjeld
It was an interesting day for Toyota drivers at Texas Motor Speedway, with some of them helping their playoff odds and others not Sunday.
Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell and Denny Hamlin finished in the top-5.
Wallace, in particular, nearly snapped Toyota’s near-three-year-long winless streak at Texas.
Wallace led a race-high 111 of 267 laps. While he lost the lead in the midsection of the race, he reasserted himself after a restart on lap 248.
Wallace and Kyle Larson battled for two laps before Larson got loose and wrecked out in turn one.
Wallace got away OK on the next restart – on lap 255. The final restart – on lap 262 – wouldn’t serve him as well, though.
The 23XI Racing driver didn’t get a good launch. That allowed Chase Briscoe to stall his momentum, which let William Byron and Ross Chastain slip by as he finished third.
“Just upset with myself. Really needed a win there, and it was a good showing. I don’t know where that puts us. I don’t really care. But I know what I did, and I choked.” Wallace said. “I feel like I’ve made a massive improvement in that, processing things a little bit better, but when it comes down to crunch time, you have to keep it all in check.”
Denny Hamlin’s day nearly ended in stage one. During a late-stage caution, Ty Gibbs slammed into Hamlin’s car as Hamlin exited his pit stall.
The damage ended Gibbs’ day, while Hamlin recovered nicely.
Despite poor luck on a later pit stop, a flurry of late-race cautions allowed Hamlin to secure a fifth-place finish. It’s his third straight top-five finish.
“Today, I thought we had a really fast FedEx Camry until we got the damage. Once we got the damage, it just wasn’t as fast as it was before. Still, considering how much damage it had – it was a top-three car. A bunch of carnage happened there in the end, and we avoided it, so we are in a better spot than when we entered,” Hamlin said.
Denny Hamlin is now second in points, +37 to the cutline. He is two spots ahead of Christopher Bell who is +20 to the cutline.
Bell placed third in the first stage but didn’t have the pace to keep up during the longer runs. Bell ran in the top 15 for 122 laps, including the final 19.
In those final laps, three quick restarts elevated Christopher Bell to fourth.
“This is one of those days that I’m going to be really, really happy on Wednesday or Thursday. Right now, I’m pretty disappointed because the performance wasn’t there. I’ve got to figure out what I was missing in the Interstate Batteries Camry and produce a lap time that the other guys could,” Bell said post-race.
In contrast to Wallace, Bell and Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Tyler Reddick couldn’t do much with the cards they were dealt – finishing 17th and 25th, respectively.
Like Bell, Truex looked largely uncompetitive Sunday. He spun after stage one ended and spent just 97 laps in the top-15.
The regular season champion is +19 to the cutline but still isn’t a surefire lock for the Round of 8.
The day wasn’t completely lost for Reddick but his 25th-place finish didn’t show for it.
The No. 45 car won the first stage and led 36 laps. Then, in stage three, a caution fell as Reddick was pitting during a green flag cycle.
As he mounted a charge to the top-10 with 10 laps to go, Reddick hit the wall in turn four and started a multi-car wreck.
“We had a really good strategy, and I think it was shaping up to work out okay. I think the 7 (Corey LaJoie) spinning and bringing out that caution – we had to come down pit road and take a lot of fuel. From there it was restarts – I had good ones and I had bad ones. The last one there took us out of the race,” Reddick said.
Now, Tyler Reddick joins teammate Bubba Wallace below the cutline, at -3 points and -2, respectively.
The NASCAR Cup Series now heads to Talladega Superspeedway, with the green flag set to drop on the YellaWood 500 just after 2 P.M. EST.