“We started on page one for 23XI Racing,” Bubba Wallace recently told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio when explaining the beginning of what has become the story of the creation of Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan’s new NASCAR Cup team. “It’s an honor for me to build that, but with that comes a lot of pressure, a lot of trying times. But when you surround yourself with the right team like we have, it makes those situations a little bit easier to navigate through. We just gotta keep building on that notebook.”
Helping Hamlin, Jordan, Wallace and Toyota Racing Development build upon that notebook come the 2022 season will be incoming 23-year Cup veteran Kurt Busch. A refugee from the soon-to-be shuttered Chip Ganassi Racing Cup team, the 2004 Cup champion and 33-time race winner will join the aforementioned dream team building-out a two car race effort in what will be the twilight of his career.
On Saturday evening and not too long before climbing into the jaws of the No. 23XI Toyota for tonight’s Federated Auto Parts 400, RACER caught up to Wallace for a quick fly-by on the immediate, near and even distant future of the 23XI racing organization. Currently slotted-in at 27th spot in Cup series points and with a set goal of trying to close out the year in the top 17 – Wallace has 535 points compared to current 17th place driver Austin Dillon’s total of 713 points – Wallace is looking at tonight’s 400-lap, 300-mile affair on the 0.75-mile Richmond oval as a venue to get the Top 17 ball rolling.
“Yeah, that’s basically how we are,” offered Wallace of his objective to moving up five places in the point standings. “We want to get to 17th in the points and Darlington wasn’t very good for us, so we’ve got to rebound back and put that one behind us and focus on tonight here at Richmond and the rest of the season. I’m looking forward to it all and I believe there are a lot of good tracks coming up for us.”
And of the recent announcement that veteran champion Kurt Busch would be joining Wallace in both building up the infrastructure and overall performance of the 23XI effort, Wallace pointed out that 2022 can’t really come quick enough.
“Next year is going to be way different, especially with this new car and everything else that’ll come with it,” explained Wallace. “A new car with a new team, it’s a lot to take on but I think we’ve got a good foundation being built to help us get along and into the future. Having Kurt come on board with us is going to be good, I believe. I think Kurt has lot of knowledge and a lot of talent and a lot of wisdom to help guide us in the right direction. It’ll be fun. Kurt is already throwing ideas at us to try, so it’ll be fun.
“You know, I think Denny’s direction and vision is getting this team going in the right direction. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and I just have to keep doing my job. We want to try and get this No. 23XI program up and going and being consistent. I think that’s one thing we’ve lacked a little bit this year. We’ve lacked consistency. We’re trying to make that the best we can and that’s what I’m looking forward to the most. We’ve just got to eliminate the mistakes and show up with the stars and everything else aligned. it’s good to have the support from Denny and the team because this sport is so demanding. It’s grueling and demanding, so when you have a team like this that is with you every step of the way like this one is, it definitely helps the confidence.
“We have Denny and Michael and leading the ship and they want to win and there’s really no ceiling for them, so they want to do everything that it takes and hire the right people and hire the right drivers, so to have them believe in me and my talents means a lot. I have to deliver and I’m looking forward to it.”
What about Michel Jordan and his interest and enthusiasm in the 23XI race team?
“He’s definitely a big fan,” exclaimed Wallace of the NBA superhero. “A massive fan. It’s been cool to hear his knowledge and to help him understand the races a little bit better, but he’s definitely come into all of this well prepared. That’s one thing about MJ: if he’s going to do something, he’s going to make it the absolute best it can be.”
And when it comes to new incoming teammate Kurt Busch and the future of the overall effect the Daytona 500 champion will have on both him and the entire 23XI outfit?
“I’ve gotten to know Kurt a little bit better these last couple of months,” said Wallace before wandering off to prepare for tonight’s race. “He’s a really genuine guy and a lot of fun to be around, but he also knows what it takes to be competitive and win races and obviously win championships. It’ll be fun to pick his brain moving forward these next 15 months. We’ve got a lot of work to do and I really look forward to it.”