Bubba Wallace will have a fresh face atop his No. 23 pit box for the remainder of this NASCAR Cup Series season. Bootie Barker has been named the crew chief, beginning with the upcoming race at Bristol Motor Speedway, 23XI Racing announced Thursday (Sept. 16).
Wallace’s former crew chief Mike Wheeler has been elevated to full-time Director of Competition, the team announced.
“Mike Wheeler has been a huge part of helping build 23XI Racing,” 23XI Racing President Steve Lauletta said in a team release. “From day one, Wheels has helped put this team together, with a focus on the competition side. As we move towards 2022, it’s important for us to put the right people in place that help continue the growth of 23XI to the next level. As we finish out the 2021 season, this move allows Wheels to focus on our overall vision for 23XI and allow Bootie Barker to help Bubba and the No. 23 team finish strong over the final eight races.”
“Being a part of 23XI Racing from when it was just an idea, to seeing the plans come to life, securing our temporary shop and working to build this team has been an amazing opportunity and one I’m excited to continue as the team grows and expands,” Wheeler added. “I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be back on the box this season with the No. 23 team and Bubba, but to be able to solely focus on the next steps it takes to expand to a multi-car team, build a new shop and get this team to where it’s in contention to win each and every week is exciting for me and I’m ready to give it my full attention as we finish this season and move into 2022. Bootie (Barker) has been a great asset to 23XI Racing all season and with his experience, he was the right choice to step in and finish the 2021 season with Bubba and the No. 23 Toyota Camry team.”
The team did not state whether Barker would remain Wallace’s crew chief for the 2022 season. The team will expand to two entries, bringing Kurt Busch into the fold to drive the No. 45 Toyota. The team has also not yet announced who will be Busch’s crew chief next year.
Wallace currently is 22nd in the championship standings, with two top fives — including a career-best tying second place in the regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway — and two top 10s.
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