By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Bubba Wallace finally scored that first top-10 finish for first-year 23XI Racing team Sunday at Pocono Raceway.
Following a 10-lap shake-up of leaders running dry on fuel, Wallace’s fuel-saving strategy kept him on track and up to speed. After William Byron and team owner Denny Hamlin ran dry, Wallace jumped into the fifth position, earning his first top-five finish of 2021 and the fourth of his NASCAR Cup Series career.
“A great call by Wheels [crew chief, Michael Wheeler],” Wallace said. “It’s so easy to be put in the hornet’s nest here. That’s from 12th-20th. You’re just rooting and gauging, banging a fender.
“I got into the wall just from aero-tight. That put us behind so I knew we had to pull some strategy. I knew our car was good enough to be top 10. I didn’t know it was gonna come down to a nail-biter with fuel.”
Though fuel-saving isn’t in a racecar driver’s nature, Wallace was happy to do what was necessary to try to win.
“A racer wants to win,” he said. “And if it’s got to save fuel to win, then hell yeah, I’ll do it. I’ll listen.
“I’m a racer, so I’m always looking at how to be better. That’s me executing better, finding a better balance, figuring out what we needed in Turn 1, that was our trouble spot all weekend. That’s just a racer’s mentality. I want to be better. We’ll celebrate tonight and go back to work on Monday.”
— 23XI Racing (@23XIRacing) June 27, 2021
With now five top-15 finishes in the last seven races, Wallace is feeling the improvement from not only 23XI, but Toyota, as Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch scored the win.
“A good all-around weekend for the organization and the partnership with JGR,” he said. “We have a lot to build on. They’ve been strong here at Pocono. Nice to see a Toyota in Victory Lane, hopefully we can get ours there soon.”
With team co-owner Michael Jordan in attendance over the Pocono doubleheader weekend, Wallace was thrilled to bring the result home to the boss, stressing how seriously the NBA legend has taken his involvement with 23XI.
“He understands. Everyone says he’s a winner, he’s a champion. Yes, but he’s also a realistic person,” he said. “He wants to win for sure, but he knows what it’s going to take to get us there. It’s more from me, it’s more from the team. It’s more of a group effort.
“He’s in the background watching it, enjoying it. He’s hooked. Having Michael Jordan hooked to NASCAR is huge and that’s getting a lot of other big names hooked as well. That’s what the sport needs.”
— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 27, 2021