NASCAR: Why is Bubba Wallace driving a different car?

Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace is not driving the same car he drove at the end of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season in 2023.

Bubba Wallace is set for his sixth full NASCAR Cup Series season and his third with the Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan-owned 23XI Racing team.

Wallace, who drove the No. 23 Toyota in the team’s first season as a nod to Jordan’s NBA legacy, also spent time behind the wheel of another car last year.

He drove the No. 23 Toyota throughout the 26-race regular season, but he drove the No. 45 Toyota, which was added ahead of the team’s second season for Kurt Busch, throughout the 10-race playoffs, though he did miss a race due to a suspension.

Now Bubba Wallace is back behind the wheel of the No. 23 Toyota for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

The reason why Wallace was moved to the No. 45 Toyota for the playoffs is because Busch was sidelined with concussion-like symptoms following his qualifying crash at Pocono Raceway in July, and he had already qualified for the playoffs by winning earlier in the season at Kansas Speedway.

While Busch ultimately elected to give up his playoff spot, since he wasn’t cleared to return to action for the postseason, his win remained tied to the No. 45 team, meaning that the No. 45 team qualified for the owner playoffs.

So 23XI Racing moved Wallace, who wasn’t in the playoffs himself, to the No. 45 Toyota for the playoffs in an attempt to bolster the No. 45 team’s chances at the owner championship.

Wallace’s No. 23 team wasn’t in the owner playoffs, so Ty Gibbs, Busch’s replacement, moved over to the No. 23 Toyota for the postseason. 23XI Racing felt that Wallace gave the No. 45 team a better chance to advance than Gibbs, who had only ever competed in six Cup Series races when the playoffs began.

While the No. 45 team didn’t win the owner championship, the move certainly paid off, as Wallace won the round of 16 race at Kansas Speedway to get the No. 45 team into the round of 12 in only its first season.

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With Tyler Reddick joining 23XI Racing as Busch’s full-time replacement, following a three-year stint at Richard Childress Racing to open up his Cup Series career, Wallace is now back behind the wheel of the No. 23 Toyota, with Reddick driving the No. 45 Toyota.