NASCAR: Would Bubba Wallace be better off without 23XI Racing?

Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Bubba Wallace made headlines when he changed teams before the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season. But would another offer have been better for his career?

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs had only just begun when the news broke that Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan were forming a new Cup Series team, 23XI Racing, for 2021 with Bubba Wallace as the driver of their #23 Toyota. It had been rumored for quite some time that Jordan was looking to start a Cup Series team.

The confirmation ended Wallace’s three-year tenure with Richard Petty Motorsports, as he had driven the #43 Chevrolet for “The King” since 2018.

In his first year with 23XI Racing, Wallace scored three top five finishes, including his first Cup Series win at Talladega Superspeedway.

While his win made his first season with the new team a historic one, there were significant growing pains, and Wallace only finished one spot better in the points standings (21st place) than he did in his final season with Richard Petty Motorsports (22nd).

This season, Wallace has one top five finish and an additional top 10 finish, but he has four DNFs, which is more than double his previous career-worst through 16 races.

He has already tied his DNF total from all of last season, and both pit crew miscommunication and mechanical issues have hindered his ability to run up front when given a competitive setup.

But Wallace had another offer outside of 23XI Racing back in 2020, and if he took that offer, things may have played out differently.

At the time of Wallace’s switch to 23XI Racing, it was widely reported he had an offer to drive the #42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing.

That seat was ultimately taken by Ross Chastain for the 2021 season. But Chip Ganassi Racing ended up being sold to Trackhouse Racing Team after the 2021 season, and Chastain stayed in-house in the re-branded #1 Chevrolet for 2022.

Trackhouse Racing Team, like 23XI Racing, entered the Cup Series for the first time in 2021.

Ironically enough, Chastain’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Kurt Busch, joined Wallace at 23XI Racing as the driver of the #45 Toyota following Chip Ganassi Racing’s sale to the Justin Marks and Pitbull-owned team.

Chastain finished higher than Wallace in last year’s point standings, and he had more than twice as many 10 finishes, as well as a better average finish. This year, both Chastain and teammate Daniel Suarez have earned their first Cup Series wins with Trackhouse Racing Team.

Chastain has two wins and sits in second place in the point standings with a series-high seven top five finishes. Suarez sits in 17th in the standings with three top five finishes, which is still comfortably ahead of Wallace in 25th.

Next. The next Trackhouse driver has a rare opportunity. dark

With Trackhouse Racing Team pulling away from 23XI Racing as the better second-year NASCAR Cup Series team, Wallace may have been better off taking the #42 Chevrolet and making himself a candidate to drive for Marks and Pitbull in 2022.