Ty Gibbs is set to make his second NASCAR Cup Series start at 23XI Racing as Kurt Busch’s replacement, a “tall task”, according to Bubba Wallace.
23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace is in his fifth season competing full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series, but the 2022 campaign is his first with a teammate.
He spent the first three seasons of his career with Richard Petty Motorsports and was 23XI Racing’s lone driver last year after the team came to fruition following the desire of Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to “turn fake news into real news”.
His 2022 teammate, Kurt Busch, happens to be a former Cup Series champion and future NASCAR Hall of Famer.
This partnership has allowed Busch the opportunity to mentor Wallace, and the 23XI Racing organization, including Wallace as an individual, have made obvious strides throughout the year.
While the results haven’t always been there, the team have had a lot more speed on a far more consistent basis than they did last year when Wallace was in his first season behind the wheel of the #23 Toyota.
The team have secured six top three finishes this season, including Busch’s win at Kansas Speedway to make the 2022 season his ninth consecutive winning season.
Wallace himself has two of those top three results, including one earlier this month at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in what many have described as the most complete race of his career.
Now all of sudden, Bubba Wallace finds himself as the veteran presence at the team.
Busch was injured during the qualifying session for last Sunday afternoon’s race at Pocono Raceway, and Ty Gibbs, who competes full-time for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series, was called upon to replace him behind the wheel of the #45 Toyota.
Gibbs had never before driven the Gen 7 car.
The 19-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina is back this week to make his Cup Series road course debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as Busch was not cleared to compete as a result of ongoing concussion-like symptoms.
Can Wallace apply Busch’s role as his mentor to his unexpected role alongside Ty Gibbs?
This situation, he admits, is not quite the same as the one he was in when Busch arrived. While mentorship from Busch, who is in his 22nd full season in the Cup Series, has certainly been beneficial for Wallace, Wallace also entered the year with four full seasons of experience.
Ty Gibbs entered last weekend not even knowing he’d make his Cup debut this year — or even next year, for that matter.
“I think it’s such a tall task for Ty,” Wallace admitted to Beyond the Flag. “It’s a little bit different [than my situation]. I’m going into my fifth year, right? It’s just a matter of managing races for me and making sure I’m doing everything that I can to produce the best results. For Ty, he’s got a tall task in front of him. Just finishing and running all the laps is important for him. So there are two different outlooks you can look at it.”
Gibbs did a respectable job last week, considering the fact that he had no prior experience in the car. His first laps behind the wheel took place when the green flag dropped, and he had to start in the back, despite Busch’s top 10 qualifying effort, as a result of not only the team’s use of a backup car but as a result of the late driver change.
Gibbs finished in 18th place and was promoted to 16th when Hamlin and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch were disqualified.
At least this weekend, Gibbs gets a chance to qualify.
His most recent road course start was an Xfinity Series start at Road America, where he made a last-lap pass on reigning Cup Series champion Kyle Larson to secure the win.
Unfortunately, there is no telling when Kurt Busch might return, as it is more of a week-to-week thing at this point.
“We’re ready for Kurt to get healthy and come back in the right way,” Wallace added. “We’ll definitely be racing for him.”
Sunday’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard is set to be broadcast live on NBC from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course beginning at 2:30 p.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season’s 22nd race!