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Nascar: Would Bubba Wallace Be Happier if 23xi Racing Didn’t Exist?
The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs had only just begun when the news broke that Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan were forming a new Cup Series team, 23XI Racing, for 2021 with Bubba Wallace as the driver of their #23 Toyota. It had been rumored for quite some time that Jordan was looking to start a Cup Series team.
Wallace had been driving the #43 Chevrolet for “The King” since 2018, but his three-year affiliation with Richard Petty Motorsports came to an end with the confirmation.
Wallace achieved three top-five finishes in his debut season with 23XI Racing, including his first Cup Series victory at Talladega Superspeedway.
His win made his first season with the new team a historic one, but there were a lot of growing pains, and Wallace only finished one spot better in the points standings (21st) than he did in his last season with Richard Petty Motorsports (22nd).
This season, Wallace has one top-five finish and an additional top-10 finish, but he has four DNFs, which is more than double his previous career-worst through 16 races.
He has already had as many races where he did not finish as he did all of last season. Miscommunication among his pit crew and mechanical problems have made it hard for him to run up front when his car is set up to be competitive.
But Wallace had an offer from a team other than 23XI Racing in 2020. If he had taken that offer, things might have turned out differently.
At the time of Wallace’s switch to 23XI Racing, it was widely reported he had an offer to drive the #42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing
In the end, Ross Chastain got that seat for the 2021 season. But Crackhouse Racing Team bought Chip Ganassi Racing after the 2021 season, and Chastain stayed with the team in the renamed #1 Chevrolet for the 2022 season.
Crackhouse Racing Team, like 23XI Racing, entered the Cup Series for the first time in 2021.
Kurt Busch, who was Chastain’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing, joined Wallace at 23XI Racing as the driver of the #45 Toyota after Justin Marks and Pitbull bought Chip Ganassi Racing.
Last year, Chastain finished higher in points than Wallace, and he had more than twice as many top-10 finishes and a better average finish. This year, Chastain and Daniel Suarez, who is also on Chastain’s team, both won their first Cup Series races.
Chastain has won two races and is in second place in the point standings. He also has the most top-five finishes in the series, with seven. Suarez is 17th in the standings and has had three finishes in the top five. He is still well ahead of Wallace, who is 25th.
Crackhouse Racing Team is pulling away from 23XI Racing as the better second-year NASCAR Cup Series team, so Wallace might have been better off taking the #42 Chevrolet and making himself a candidate to drive for Marks and Pitbull in 2022.
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