Bubba Wallace had high expectations for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season after a strong second half in 2022. The 29-year-old would admit his No. 23 team failed to live up to those expectations in the first eight races of the year.
Crew chief Bootie Barker says that needs to change and there will be no excuses in the coming races as the 23XI Racing driver heads to circuits where he has had notable success in the recent past.
Bubba Wallace fights in early 2023
Bubba Wallace admitted he was more confident than ever ahead of the start of the 2023 season. Unfortunately, that confidence has not translated into results.
After a 20th place finish at Daytona, a track he’s had success at in the past, the driver headed west and things got worse before they got better. Wallace recorded a 30th and DNF at the Auto Club before rallying for an encouraging fourth in Las Vegas the following week.
He followed that run at Sin City with a 14th place finish in Phoenix, but it’s been tough for the No. 23 team since then. The driver made a couple of glaring mistakes at Atlanta and the Circuit of the Americas, finishing 27th and 14th respectively 37 ended.
He finished 22nd at Richmond and had his second best result of the year at the Bristol Dirt last week where he finished 12th.
Crew chief says “no excuses” for upcoming races
While Wallace has been hard on himself over his own mistakes, it’s a team sport and his team have let him down on several occasions, including a late pit lane penalty in Richmond that dashed any hopes of what appeared to be a top-10 finish made.
This week, Crew Chief Bootie Barker made a guest appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and spoke about the season, including the fights. Despite these problems, he said he was encouraged by the fact that the team regularly put a fast car out on track and acknowledged that speed must lead to better results.
“I would say most of the time we definitely had speed,” Barker said. “However, we as a group, the number 23 car, have to get better. We need to extract finishes from that speed. I feel like we will. We will.
“I’m not saying that (in the past) this stretch of track was necessarily our favorite for our group, but that’s no excuse. You have to lead them. You must do good. We’d better get right here. These are no excuses for us. I look forward to meeting you.”
Wallace has had success on tracks in the past
Looking ahead to the next four tracks and how Wallace has performed on them in the past, one can understand Barker’s optimism. These include Martinsville, Talladega, Dover and Kansas.
Starting with the paperclip, the 23XI Racing driver achieved his best career finish last fall at the half-mile circuit, finishing eighth. Talladega will always hold a special place for the driver and his fans as it was where he celebrated his maiden Cup Series win in 2021. Of all the circuits, he had the least success at Dover, an 11th place finish in 2021, his best finish.
Kansas, where the driver defeated team co-owner Denny Hamlin last year to win for the second time in his Cup career, finished the four-race stretch.
With so much success of late, Wallace is rightly optimistic about the upcoming races. Sound familiar? It will be interesting to see if the driver and team can translate that optimism into results.
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