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2021 NASCAR Preseason Power Rankings, No. 19: Bubba Wallace

Bubba Wallace became a well-known athlete and figure to the world in 2020. In 2021, he steps into the spotlight once again.

This time, it is not for his fight for justice against racial inequality in the United States, but via his day job, driving racecars for the newly formed 23XI Racing with team owners Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan.

A LOOK BACK

Wallace has not had an easy climb to this level at all compared to many other drivers currently in the NASCAR Cup Series. Many forget his start in NASCAR’s top three series began back in 2012 with Joe Gibbs Racing, driving the No. 20 car in the Xfinity Series for four races before moving to the Camping World Truck Series full time in 2013 for Kyle Busch Motorsports. In total, he drove two full time seasons for KBM and scored five wins, including four in a stellar 2014 campaign.

After it seemed like his career was going to take off, KBM unexpectedly released Wallace at the end of the 2014 season, and he was in search for a new start somewhere. Roush Fenway Racing came knocking on his door and hired him to drive the No. 6 full time in the Xfinity Series in 2015. The beginning portion of the season was a struggle for Wallace, but he salvaged a down season and scored 14 top 10s and finished seventh in the points. This was impressive for a 21-year-old driver who did not have much experience in the Xfinity cars.

His big break came in 2018 when he was hired to drive Richard Petty Motorsports’ iconic No. 43, but in his three full-time seasons for RPM, Wallace was unfortunately not able to score any wins, though he definitely progressed as a driver. 2020 was his best, finishing 22nd in points and scoring a career high five top 10s.

After securing several sponsors during the season in 2020 and having several impressive runs in the No. 43, Wallace was picked as the driver for 23XI.

PROMISING VENUES

Wallace has shown the talent to be in Cup, even back in 2017. Before his Xfinity team shut down, he was on quite the consistent streak; from races two to six, he finished sixth in every race. It boosted him to fourth in points, which was his best career points position at the time.

While it has been a somewhat tough road for Wallace, there have been several flashes of his talent and ability being displayed. Take for example the 2018 Daytona 500. The race was poised to be a good one after the thrilling races the previous few seasons. After an eventful race and a crazy last lap turn of events after Aric Almirola was turned by eventual winner Austin Dillon, Wallace followed Dillon and finished second, his best career finish to date.

The Daytona 500 was not the only race Wallace had a shot at a win in Cup. Fast forward to the 2019 Brickyard 400, when Wallace nearly took a win away from Kevin Harvick after a strong run the entire race. He ultimately finished third, his best finish of 2019.

2021 SCENARIOS

A new team is generally not expected to win right out of the gate, and to be fair, it has not happened in a very long time. However, can 23XI and Wallace change that? They seem to have the right people and the right equipment to do so. It will be a difficult feat, but Wallace has been ready for this year since the minute the checkered flag dropped at Phoenix Raceway in November.

My gut feeling is this team will perform very well in 2021 and will be close to making the playoffs, if not making it. Wallace will compete for top 10s and some top fives, but winning in the first year with a brand new team has been next to impossible. He is an extremely good superspeedway racer, though, so I would not be surprised if he competes for wins at all four races at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

Do not put it past this team to win, even with all that said. Hamlin and Jordan have tons of knowledge, and Wallace brings a lot of sponsorship. These days, that equals performance, so be ready for these guys to be strong at times.

OUTLOOK

Wallace will likely ultimately come up just short of making the playoffs. While his team will be strong several weeks, there are other teams at the moment who will come out of the gate for 2021 and be ready to win. The competition is extremely strong this season; I would not be surprised if we have 14-15 different winners. If this is the case, and Wallace is not one of those winners, it will be difficult to qualify for the playoffs for sure.

No matter what, this will be his best career year in Cup, by far. It may take two to four years to work his way into being a top five contender with that team, but I feel confident in his ability for this season at least to help them have a strong first year.

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Brandon is a 22-year-old from NY and has been a passionate follower of motorsports for 14 years now. He recently graduated from Molloy College on Long Island with a BA in Communications. Working within NASCAR has been a dream for Brandon for a while, and he hopes to be able to live out the dream in the very near future.

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8 thoughts on “2021 NASCAR Preseason Power Rankings, No. 19: Bubba Wallace”

  1. Wow, going from being an also ran to perhaps making the playoffs? Are you kidding me? Has Wallace ever shown that kind of talent when driving in cup? Flashes, yet but you need to look at his overall record. With articles like this, Danica 2.0 is front and center.

  2. He definitely has talent – just no more or less than scores of others who’ve actually earned their shot at the highest level. If they throw enough money at the problem they will eventually get him a win.

  3. Can anyone name someone that has started a team from scratch in the last 25 years with a driver that has never won and ran top 20? Just wondering. The closest I can come is Evernham with Dodge in 2001…. but he had Bill Elliott as a driver.

  4. I’ll call the shot and say he sits on the pole for the Daytona 500 because that will make national headlines.

  5. At least DW isn’t in the booth shoveling us bubba bubba bubba. I’ll wager right now that Denny will be pushing that car on the super speedways. But remember, bubba showed a lot of promise six years ago in a KBM truck lol. He definitely earned this ride.

  6. I wish him well now that he will have money technology and other support although I don’t consider him to be anything special. What’s going to bug me will be the fawning and over the top promotion of him by NASCAR and the media simply because NASCAR needs a black driver. Period. NASCAR needed a female driver and what they came up with was a token fake shoved under my nose every week. Sickening.

  7. Bubba had some solid drives for the 43. Is he Kyle Larson in terms of sheer talent behind the wheel? No, but he’ll become a winner in the 23. I expect the 23 to become a regular playoff team in the coming years with Bubba behind the wheel. Now, do I think drivers like Corey LaJoie, Landon Cassill, and Gray Gaulding are equally as talented? Yes.

    There are many drivers just wanting that break like Bowman got or even Matty D.

    For now, I’m glad to have a car fully sponsored for 2021 on the grid. Maybe Pitbull can similarly help Trackhouse over time. RWR getting Nurtec is big for that team. We need more of that.

  8. Well, this experiment should silence the idiots that say he has been in inferior equipment his whole cup career. I would think the “inferior equipment and team” bs will not hold water this time around. Time will tell, then what? What excuse is next if the “inferior equipment” argument is proven a complete and utter fantasy? Just askin~ What will be next to keep the half black guy relevant, well…because he is half black and they want you to know it 24/7! (Except they leave out half white, it screws the “struggle” narrative up, imo) Same lame deal shit went down because of Danica having a jai jai.

    We shall see, what we shall see….

    I would not be surprised if this clown “wins” the Daytona Pole!

    Imo!

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