New sponsor, new venue have Bubba Wallace ready for weekend

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For the first time in his racing career, Bubba Wallace will run on a track Formula 1 superstar Lewis Hamilton — a driver Wallace has looked up to for years — also competed, when the Cup Series competes this weekend at Circuit of the Americas.

Hamilton, who seeks a record eighth Formula 1 championship this season, won five times in eight starts at the Austin, Texas track.

Wallace seeks his first career top-10 finish on a road course Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1). He’ll do so coming off a season-best 11th-place finish at Dover and with additional sponsorship for 23XI Racing.

Sunday’s Cup race marks the first time Wallace’s car and uniform will have DraftKings on it. DraftKings joins 23XI Racing as the first Official Daily Fantasy Sports, iGaming and Sports Betting Partner.

The deal allows DraftKings, the Official Daily Fantasy of NASCAR, and 23XI Racing to promote an in-app experience for fans and collaborate on a cross-channel social media content video series that includes race previews and data presented by DraftKings.

The DraftKings car Bubba Wallace is set to drive June 27 at Pocono Raceway. Photo: DraftKings

Also, DraftKings will be the primary sponsor of Wallace’s car June 27 at Pocono Raceway. DraftKings Sportsbook will launch a free-to-play pool ahead of the event with custom prizes that will include signed Wallace merchandise.

As for NASCAR’s first trip to COTA this weekend, Wallace admits it is “definitely pretty cool” to race on the same track that Hamilton and the F1 series competed.

“I’ve been excited about this place,” Wallace told NBC Sports. “As bad of a road racer that I am, I’ve always wanted to race at COTA just because I’ve watched it from the F1 races and played it a ton on the F1 games on the computer. To see that we’re finally going there and getting to run some laps there and (then) test there a couple of weeks ago was really cool.

“It will be a lot of chaos. It won’t be like F1. I remember my first laps on the (simulator). I was trying to drive it like an F1 car and blew through the first corner.”

Wallace says he hopes to have a chance to meet Hamilton in person at some point. What would he want to talk about?

“It probably would be about ‘Call of Duty,’ ” Wallace said of the military game they’ve played together online.

Wallace said he’s been a fan of Hamilton’s for at least seven years when his interest grew in Formula 1. Wallace said he was drawn to Hamilton by “how big of a badass he was on the racetrack. Seeing that trend continue … is super cool.”

Wallace looks forward to watching the F1 races.

“I like my sleep, but F1 gets me up and gets me excited,” he said.

F1 teams race in Monaco this weekend. Traditionally, the race has been held on the same day as the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 but moved up a weekend in F1’s revamped schedule. 

Hamilton has won three of the first four races this season, giving him 98 career F1 wins, and some are suggesting this could be among his best seasons with Red Bull pushing the Mercedes team.

“Obviously, Mercedes is the top team, they have been the last six, seven seasons now,” Wallace said of Hamilton’s team. “I think it’s super cool that Red Bull is catching up and giving them a run for their money.”

Wallace likes that because it reinforces Hamilton’s talent.

“He’s kind of bridging the gap between … where they want to be and where they are now,” Wallace said. “He’s making up the difference. Heck of a drive by him.”

As for his season, Wallace saw progress last weekend at Dover.

“It was good,” he said. “Obviously, it’s just like ‘OK, yes, we knew we could do that, and now we have to go out and continue to do that, continue to get better and better.’ We were happy that we kind of put a race together and not really had any major hiccups. We still had some issues that we’ve got to get through, but, all in all, it seems like we were close to firing on all cylinders.

“Good effort by the team … that strategy call at the end of the race (to not pit) was maybe a nail-biter for some, but we were able to dig deep and not lose too many spots and salvage a really good finish.”