Going NASCAR Cup Series racing is never easy. Even with Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Jordan on your side.
New organization 23XI Racing and driver Bubba Wallace began their partnership with much fanfare, but are still seeking their first top-10 finish after eight races this season.
However, there have been signs of progress over the opening stretch. Wallace and his No. 23 Toyota have shown top-10 speed in several races, including last week at Martinsville, where he led a career-high 23 laps before finishing 16th.
Wallace agrees that the results could be a little better. But in his mind, those will come as both he and 23XI master the little things necessary to one day run with the Cup elites.
“We’re figuring out what we need to secure those spots earlier in the race and go fight for something much greater than we have been,” Wallace said Friday during a media teleconference.
To that end, maximizing his car’s potential is on Wallace’s mind as he heads to Richmond Raceway Sunday (3 p.m. ET, FOX).
If given a 15th-place car, how can he bring it to, say, a 12th-place finish instead of, as he put it, “salvaging, rooting and gouging” for 15th?
Regular season points leader Denny Hamlin – his other boss alongside Jordan at 23XI – knows a thing or two about that. The same goes for former Cup champion Kevin Harvick.
Wallace cited them both Friday as drivers who can squeeze solid finishes out of cars that aren’t the best on any given day. That’s a skill he wants to earn before long.
“I feel like we are, maybe, three or four spots better every race that we have finished and it’s like, ‘Why are we not getting that?,'” he said.
“I look back on what I’m doing – putting ourselves in a predicament where it’s like, ‘Ahh, that was a little sketchy’ or getting damage to the car late and you have no chance.
“That is all coming and (I’m) getting a better understanding of that, for sure.”
Once that does come, it’ll be easier for Wallace to embed himself into the top 15 more often and go from there.
Considering that he spent the previous three years racing deeper in the pack with Richard Petty Motorsports, he’s fine with being in that range – for now.
At this point, it’s about gaining experience, from working with his new crew to determining what he needs to excel in better equipment.
“It’s still, ‘I don’t like this, I like that inside my race car,’ and it’s like, ‘OK,'” Wallace said. “We’re starting to build that list, each and every track. As different as tracks are, you can still use it as a common ground database to make sure we have the right needs that I want inside the car, and for the feel, and just for the utmost competition standpoint: ‘This is what I need to go faster.’
“It’s just building all of that right now. Having the key people in place to, one, understand that and, two, implement that in our race cars, is good.”