LOUDON, NH – The 23XI Racing team posted a slideshow of the Bubba Wallace fire suit collection and asked fans to comment on their favorite. The designs came from companies straight out of the Super Bowl ad space: Wallace was dressed by the best companies in fast food, fantasy sports, and auto insurance.
For a driver who has spent most of his NASCAR career securing sponsorship deals for underfunded teams, Wallace has plenty of Fortune 500 money. Oh, and bragging about Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin as owners. team certainly helps the cause.
But sponsors with deep pockets and a racing team seemingly on a solid financial footing haven’t done much to help Wallace succeed on the track. He’s finished in the top 10 this season – he had five last season for Richard Petty Motorsports – has led three laps since late April and needs a win over the next four races to earn a playoff spot.
It is better that the victories come in clusters.
Jordan said at NASCAR’s Daytona kickoff that Wallace should “probably win at least a few races.”
“It’s about taking a new step at this point,” Hamlin said in New Hampshire. “I think my question to the team is, ‘What’s next? How can we now increase that? When you look at the data and everything, the car has a ton of potential. How can we optimize Bubba, the performance of the whole team, the pit crew and everything, to improve? Because taking the step to regularly enter the top 10, to gain those three or four places that we need to be regularly in the top 10, is a big step. “
Hamlin has modest expectations to secure Wallace the next three or four spots by the end of the season. Wallace’s average finish is 20th. The good news, Jordan showed up in June at the Pocono Raceway – with my friend Ahmad Rashad – for Wallace’s best result of the season when he placed 14th and fifth in the double header on the tri-oval track.
Wallace spent a weekend straight out of the fantasy camp of a normal sports fan when he said he had dinner with Jordan two nights at Pocono and they watched the NBA playoffs. The dinner conversation, however, did not include a bulletin on Wallace’s first season with 23XI.
“I didn’t tell him about it,” Wallace said. “It’s more of a conversation between him and Denny.” I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, trying to produce the best results. Sunday at Pocono was good, finished in the top five. I’ll let them have these conversations with each other. “
Wallace said he would perform a “mental reset” during the two-week break at the NASCAR Olympics – the schedule resumes August 8 at Watkins Glen – before trying to shut down the NASCAR version of the regular season on a push playoffs.
“We’ve had the speed for a little while, but there are some things that got us lost or got us a little behind,” Wallace said. “It’s just a matter of persistence and going back and just trying to get the best results.”
Wallace’s season has largely focused on racing a year after his activism forced NASCAR to ban the Confederate flag. As Wallace’s profile widened, he raised funds related to him and was able to move with him. Wallace, the only full-time black driver at the highest level of NASCAR, has made a significant number of personal service agreements with companies such as DoorDash and McDonald’s. These agreements were consolidated and moved with Wallace to 23XI.
While Wallace will always have reviews, he’s still a fan favorite on the runway, and his new mainstream celebrity recently landed him (along with Motley Crue’s Hamlin and Tommy Lee) in a Post Malone video. Wallace, driver Corey LaJoie and New England Patriots return specialist Gunner Olszewski, honorary pace car driver, toured the football with fans during a rain delay in Sunday’s race. .
Wallace admitted that no one at 23XI had asked for his opinion on a pilot if he were to land a second charter and expand into a two-pilot organization next season. Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR champion, was the main target of the racing team. Busch’s deal was in place and Chip Ganassi, his current car owner, sold his NASCAR team to Trackhouse Racing owner Justin Marks. Marks will field a car next season for Daniel Suarez and one for a driver to be named later. Ross Chastain, Busch’s teammate in Ganassi, is a candidate for this second seat.
Busch said he is “getting closer” to a deal that will likely include longtime sponsor Monster Energy.
“Things have changed with the announcement of the sale of the team by Ganassi, and my relationship with Monster is important,” said Busch. “I’m trying to balance all of that to understand what their needs are. I’m a racer and I want to drive this Next Gen car and in the right scenario and in the right place. “
Wallace can take comfort in the fact that Hamlin, the three-time Daytona 500 champion, is also winless in 22 races and the struggle to reach the victory lane is real, even for the best drivers. He could also take surprise winners like Michael McDowell and Aric Almirola as proof that it only takes a checkered flag to topple a season.
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