After Tyler Reddick announced he’d be driving for 23XI Racing in 2024, NASCAR fans questioned if he would be replacing a current driver. There may be reason to believe that he could replace Bubba Wallace.
Coming off the heels of Richard Childress Racing picking up his option for 2023, Tyler Reddick grabbed his first career NASCAR Cup Series win at Road America. But then he announced that he would be driving for Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan’s 23XI Racing starting in 2024.
The news sent shockwaves throughout NASCAR, and speculation regarding how the new deal would play out flooded social media. There are multiple ways — three to be exact — in which Reddick could fit into his new seat, and one such way involves him replacing Bubba Wallace.
In the press conference announcing the move, Hamlin stated that the team did not know who would sponsor Reddick’s new ride or what car he would drive.
Shortly thereafter, 23XI Racing President Steve Lauletta stated that both Bubba Wallace and Kurt Busch, who drive the #23 Toyota and #45 Toyota, respectively, would return to the team for the 2023 season, but he wouldn’t elaborate on when or not their current deals go beyond that.
Later on, Hamlin stated that as long as the older Busch brother wanted to continue to race, “we want to have him.”
Wallace joined 23XI Racing in 2021, its first year of operation, and won the rain-shortened playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway. It was both Wallace’s and the organization’s first Cup Series win. He also finished in second place in this year’s Daytona 500, but he has struggled to find consistency from week to week.
His runner-up finish in the Daytona 500 is his one of only two top five finishes through 20 races, and he only has one other top 10 result. He sits in 23rd place in the point standings, 230 points below the playoff cut line.
Busch has a win, five top five finishes, and eight top 10 finishes in his first year with the team, and he is poised to make the 2022 season his 10th straight season with a playoff berth.
To make matters worse, Wallace has been having quite a few issues with his pit crew. An uncontrolled tire took the #23 team out of contention for a top five finish, perhaps even a win, at Kansas Speedway, and a loose wheel fell off the car at Circuit of the Americas.
Perhaps most notably, Wallace told crew chief Bootie Barker to “leave me the [expletive] alone, dude. Don’t talk to me the whole [expletive] race,” after a pit stop during the race at Nashville Superspeedway.
These issues, among others, throughout the season resulted in part of Wallace’s pit crew being swapped with members of Christopher Bell’s #20 Joe Gibbs Racing crew ahead of the recent race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
It was after this race when Reddick’s 23XI Racing deal was announced.
Despite the signs that Wallace’s job with 23XI Racing could be in jeopardy, he has the benefit of time. Knowing that he’ll be with the #23 team for at least the next season and a half, he does have an opportunity to take advantage of this time with his pit crew and prove that he can find consistency and battle toward the front, which could help secure his place in NASCAR for years to come.
There are other factors that could affect his future as well, such as if Busch decides to retire at the end of the 2023 season or if 23XI Racing buy another charter to supply a third entry for Reddick.
With so much unknown about the future and Reddick already signed by 23XI Racing for 2024, Bubba Wallace appears to be in some level of danger of losing his ride at NASCAR’s top level. But all hope is not lost. If he can improve and find a rhythm throughout the second half of 2022 and 2023, he may not have anything to fear.