Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: How Long Is Bubba Wallace’s Leash at 23XI?

Bubba Wallace hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire recently, and despite his win last year, he didn’t either. How long is his leash at 23XI Racing to remain in that ride? – Florence P., Oxford, Miss.

Conventional wisdom and the way the sponsorship/NASCAR climate has gone in recent years suggests that Bubba Wallace‘s leash is as long as his sponsors’ wallet is. And it seems like it’s getting longer by the week.

But from a performance standpoint, Wallace is in need of an uptick. Since his runner-up in the season-opening Daytona 500, he’s yet to finish inside the top 10 and has only done so inside the top 15 once.

Sure, the last lap crash at Atlanta Motor Speedway wasn’t indicative of his speed, but the other eight events didn’t have that much to tell besides the lack of pace in the No. 23.

Understanding that 23XI Racing is still a young team that still is going through some growing pains, progress week to week needs to be made. Kurt Busch has come out and scored a pair of top fives and four top 10s already, while Wallace remains a step behind.

Losing Bootie Barker for a handful of races post-Circuit of the Americas isn’t helping the team any, but excuses can only go so far. Denny Hamlin has high expectations for Wallace, and so does Michael Jordan. They can only wait so long until they either run out of excuses, racecars (supply chain issues are still raging, people) or patience.

See also
Did You Notice?: Is Trackhouse The Next Hendrick Motorsports? New NASCAR Owners Break Through

Bubba Wallace is a race-winning driver at the Cup Series level. And the series is heading to the site of said victory, Talladega Superspeedway, this weekend. But until he shows marked improvement on multiple track types, even those dreaded road courses he’s publicly despised, the spotlight will continue to remain on the No. 23’s on-track performance.

Kevin Harvick’s winless streak is at 52 races. Will he ever win another Cup race? – Marty F., Miami

A few months ago, I’d dismiss this question as malarkey. Kevin Harvick is too good to not win just once more again in his Cup career.

But given the increased parity in the series, it shouldn’t be dismissed as quickly anymore.

I still firmly believe Harvick will win at least one more race before he hangs it up. Stewart-Haas Racing isn’t the top team it was in 2014 and 2015, but it’s still a force to be reckoned with on a weekly basis (see: Chase Briscoe‘s win at Phoenix Raceway and Cole Custer‘s pole at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track).

Some may say Harvick isn’t what he once was. Father Time is undefeated, yes, but I think this is a case where the equipment Harvick is driving isn’t up to his usual standard. The man finished second at Richmond Raceway (helped by strategy, sure) but also should have won Bristol last year and has carried the banner at a struggling organization for the better part of two calendar years.

See also
Podcast: Kevin Harvick on Next Gen Adjustments, Length of NASCAR Races & Young Drivers' Success

Adjusting to the Next Gen car is obviously a big part of this discussion, personally from a driving style perspective and organizationally from a data acquisition and implementation perspective.

But statistics and data aside, Kevin Harvick is a first ballot Hall of Famer, and I can’t imagine a scenario where he doesn’t win again.

I know, I know, we said the same exact thing about Jimmie Johnson and look how his career ended, right?

Fool me once, shame on you. My gut tells me I won’t be fooled twice, though. Harvick has the rest of this year and all of next to get it done.

And if he doesn’t, well … guess I’m the fool.

About the author

Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.

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Bill B

“Bubba Wallace is a race-winning driver at the Cup Series level.” Technically correct but a bit of embellishment in that statement. One rain shortened restrictor plate race is hardly something that defines your ability and potential.

Last edited 3 months ago by Bill B
stubbscupseriesdotcom

As Brandon Brown said, it doesn’t matter how you get your wins, but just that you get them. Bubba drove up from 12th to the lead and put himself in position to win that race. No matter how much his haters continue to whine that he got his first win by virtue of rain, it won’t change the fact that he is a Cup Series winner, and has done what only about 200 people have out of the 3,000 or so that have competed in the Cup Series.

Bill B

Forget about the rain, I have a hard time calling ANY driver who has only won on restrictor plate tracks a race-winning driver (including Michael Waltrip). As I said, technically they are race winning drivers, but given the nature of restrictor plate racing, it is much more about being lucky than good. You can have your opinion and I can have mine. There is nothing you will say that will change this, so ramble on all you want.

stubbscupseriesdotcom

So why do NASCAR fans call Jr one of the greatest restrictor plate drivers ever when it takes more luck than skill?

Bill B

When Bubba wins 10+ restrictor plate races, come back and we’ll talk.

stubbscupseriesdotcom

But since restrictor plate wins hardly count for anything, why should the amount of victories matter? Please explain these double standards.

Bill B

There’s no double standard. I’m not a Jr fan, I just thought that might be an easy way to shut you up. Guess not.

stubbscupseriesdotcom

Maybe it’s not a double standard per say, I’m just wondering why people always give so much credit to Sr, Gordon, and Jr (and heck, even wrecky spinhouse) for being so good on superspeedways then when Bubba wins one they say “It’s all luck.”

Bill B

I won’t say it’s all luck but I will say luck plays a much bigger role in finishing order at restrictor plate tracks than at any of the other tracks. You will easily see this trend if you look at the top 10 at restrictor plate tracks for the last 5 years vs. finishing order at other tracks for the last 5 years.

stubbscupseriesdotcom

It’s hilarious how butt-hurt the Bubba haters get when you point out facts like Brandon Brown’s tweet and the fact that Bubba drove up to the lead to get his win. If it was anybody else they wouldn’t care, yet when it’s the driver they don’t like, they whine about how rigged NASCAR is.

Bill B

I don’t dislike Bubba, I do dislike embellishment of reality.

Kevin L

Wallace is simply NASCAR’s way of saying, “We have black friends”

Billy Porter

An asterisk ✳️ by any other name is still an asterisk. Danica’s only Indy car win came in Japan when most top tier drivers stayed home. Asterisk ✳️

Kevin L

Not to mention the attrition in those “races”

Jake

Assuming he has a leash. That’s racist.

jdquick

Bubba has a very long leash. Can you believe the blow back that would happen to NASCAR if the team let Bubba go because of performance….. But then Bubba has been nothing but a back marker in his career and because of his color he is still driving. No other driver would be in this position if the tables were reversed. They would simply be gone and looking for another ride.

janice

hamlin/jordan group seem to be able to bring the sponsors in. i think if sponsors start making noise about results then bubba will be in the hot seat. princess sparkle pony was in sport 5 yrs. i think both hamlin and jordan are probably expecting better results from bubba this year.

it’s not supposed to rain this weekend at ‘dega. and with the “supply chain” issues with the cars, who knows how aggressive he’ll be and the rest of the field will be.

Kevin L

Jordan is doing this for the tax break

Jake

I chuckle every time someone is quick to say 23XI is still a new team. That excuse doesn’t hold much water with Trackhouse outperforming 23XI every step of the way

stubbscupseriesdotcom

As a Bubba fan, I think regardless of the rest of this season he has a ride for 2023. However, if he misses the playoffs both this year and next year, he could be let go, and would likely pull a Matty D and drop down to Xfinity/Trucks. However, should he make the Playoffs this year or next year (only 49 points back of Playoffs right now and 2 susperspeedways left in regular season) I think he’ll stay with them for ’24 and ’25. Question is, who will be his teammate if that happens. Kurt has barely been any better than Bubba this year and is getting up there in age. He’ll be with them in ’23 but beyond that is a mystery for 23XI.

Bill B

Why would you point out the 2 super-speedways? If he were a good driver shouldn’t you expect him to be able to win anywhere?

stubbscupseriesdotcom

Because those are his clearly his best tracks. And no, expecting your favorite driver to be able to win anywhere is stupid. I’m, also a Bowman fan but I know he’s not great on road courses. Larson isn’t good on superspeedways. You don’t expect them to do well on those tracks because historically, they don’t.

Bill B

Every driver that doesn’t regularly run in the top 15 looks forward to those tracks because restrictor plates and pack racing equalizes any advantage in car, skill and ability moreso than the other non-restrictor plate races. I guess you have never heard drivers, owners, announcers, fans and anyone else with a pair of eyes call restrictor plate racing more of a crapshoot than races at other types of tracks. It isn’t unusual to have 10 normally top 20 cars in the garage (or heavily damaged) by the end of the race. You are confusing running well with benefiting from attrition and the randomness of the pack.

Last edited 3 months ago by Bill B
stubbscupseriesdotcom

Chances are, if you run well, you won’t be subject to that attrition because you won’t be in the back where most of the messes happen. Bubba was inside the top 15 for most of the day last fall, and drove his way up to the lead. The rains fell at the right time and he won. Sure, does attrition play a factor in Superspeedway racing? yes. Just look at the 2021 Daytona 500. But if you run well and aren’t involved in a wreck, you have done your job and put yourself in a position. NASCAR isn’t about who deserves what, it’s about who puts themselves in a position to win the race and who doesn’t. Did Alex Bowman fully deserve his 2021 Pocono win? Not necessarily, but he put himself in a position to get said win. Bubba did his job, it’s not his fault the rain came, so I have no idea why people like to pretend like it’s Bubba’s fault his first Cup win came by virtue of rain.

janice

you can be running well, up front, and someone in 5th place gets bump drafted on the turn or not squarely on the rear bumper and the laws of physics will probably impact people in 3 place and back. there have been wrecks at the front of the field and back of the field. stuff that starts in the middle can easily take out 5-10 cars. as each stage end closes in the tension builds. they race for 3 checkered flags now. steinhouse is a decent plate racer but something snaps and there he goes and a wreck happens. wasn’t carl edwards leading the race when he got wrecked and ended up in the fence a few years ago?

it’s whoever is left standing at the last lap that crosses the s/f line first. that’s why on plate tracks anyone has the chance of winning.

Bill B

So when is he going to put himself in a position to win at a non-restrcitor plate race? and doesn’t the fact that he hasn’t wracked up top tens at any of the other tracks mean anything?
So I guess we can find common ground… he’s good at the RP tracks for whatever reason but sucks everywhere else.

Kevin L

… or even ‘somewhere’!

DoninAjax

Danica 2.0 will end the same way as Danica…when the money tree dies!

stubbscupseriesdotcom

Bubba is 10X better than Danica and has already won 7x more races than she did in NASCAR. Also finished higher in the points a couple years in a garbage RPM car than she did in championship level SHR equipment. If you want a real Danica 2.0, look at Hailie Deegan. One top 10 in 29 starts.

DoninAjax

Deegan isn’t in Cup..

Kevin L

NASCAR needs to make more black friends so we can stop promoting this midfielder.

RCFX1

He is the diversity poster boy for Nascar. Their advertisements always include him (next to Cup Champions). He’s the new Danica. She was horrible but kept her seat because she was needed. With Jordan being the co-owner, he’s not going anywhere (until another black driver shows up).

stubbscupseriesdotcom

nah he’s much better than Danica. Deegan is more of a Deegan 2.0 imo

DoninAjax

Deegan isn’t in Cup.

KC

Race winning driver??? Not even close!! 💩💩💩💩💩🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮🤮

Shayne

Bubba is a brand now. A perfect storm showered the half white Bubba with fame and fortune. Like many drivers before Bubba, if you have money, you can race. No talent needed. Bubba didn’t earn any of this windfall out on the track. Will he become a better driver over time?

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