By David Morgan, Associate Editor
LEBANON, Tenn. – The lone off weekend of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season could have been just what the doctor ordered for Bubba Wallace and 23XI Racing.
Kicking off the year with a runner-up finish in Daytona, it’s been all downhill for Wallace and the No. 23 team since, scoring just one other top-10 finish through the first 16 races of the season, with the bad luck that seems to follow him culminating in a 36th place finish at Sonoma two weeks ago.
After his Sonoma struggles, Wallace was able to regroup over the off weekend, shifting his mindset coming into this weekend’s Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway as he and the team hope to be able to make a return to Victory Lane in the 10 races that remain in the regular season.
That run toward the Playoffs got off on the right foot on Friday when he started the weekend by topping Cup Series practice on Friday.
“I had a lot of emotion when I got out of the car, just from winning practice,” Wallace said. “After the season that we’ve had, you know, it meant a lot to me, having that speed and just showing that we’re competitive. And now you got a lot of people in the garage that are talking about the 23 car.
“I think that’s big. You obviously want to be talked about. We’re usually talked about with the speedway stuff, but the 23 team has shown up the last week and each and every week. I’m super proud of our team for doing that. And everybody back at 23XI. We’ve just got to execute, you know, we’ve got to win. I don’t know if we’ve got to point our way in, but we’ve dug our hole deep enough to where we have to show up and not hold back on anything.”
Wallace noted the speed the team rolled off the truck with at Nashville is nothing new, as they have shown speed at a number of races, but haven’t been able to shake the bad luck as of yet. He added that if he keeps a winning mentality, things will eventually turn their way as the season rolls on.
“I just know that we’ve had multiple races that we were a winning car. So, if I keep bringing that mentality to the racetrack, it’s gonna happen. It’s a demanding season. It’s a grind. The sport is just built on grind and blood, sweat, and tears. And you gotta grind through it all. The good days, the bad days, you put it all together.”
The addition of Kurt Busch to the 23XI stable this year has also had a positive effect on Wallace, with him leaning on his elder teammate for advice and putting that advice into action.
One such piece of advice from Busch has really stuck with Wallace as he explained on Saturday.
“This year has been the best year for me as a driver and it’s just letting little stuff go and focusing on the big picture. Making the most of that moment, that stage that you’re in. Making the most of that, then you get a reset.
“Kurt Busch told me that after I jumped him at Darlington last year. He said, you know, every stage is a reset and carrying over something from the first stage to the third stage, you just hurt yourself and your teammate. So, understanding that and enjoying the moment that you’re in.
“It gets frustrating at times. You get run over or you have a bad stop or I go into the fence somewhere that sets you back, but you let that go and you build on and continue to be there. I look at plenty of races where cars have been down and out and they just grind through it and they get good finishes.”
When the green flag flies on Sunday, Wallace will have his work cut out for him, starting back in 30th place, after a bobble in qualifying, but all in the 23XI camp remain confident they will be in the mix on Sunday.