MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Friday was step forward and Saturday provides an opportunity for 23XI Racing to shake off a rough spell that has co-owner Denny Hamlin agitated.
While Hamlin won last weekend at Richmond, his two cars at 23XI Racing struggled. Kurt Busch’s stalled car brought out the caution 11 laps into the race. He went back to the garage for repairs and placed 35th, finishing 109 laps behind Hamlin. Bubba Wallace was 26th after a series of issues with his pit crew, which is supplied by Joe Gibbs Racing.
Richmond marked Busch’s second consecutive finish of worse than 30th. Wallace’s result was the fourth time in the last five races he’s placed outside the top 20.
So what needs to be done at 23XI Racing?
“Trying to stop the bleeding there,” Hamlin said Friday at Martinsville Speedway. “… I was really excited (after the win) until you get out of the car and you look down the pylon and say ‘What the -—-?’ What’s going on? It’s agitating because it’s different things on different teams. It’s just a two-week slump we got to get out of.
“We’re trying to address all the issues there (are). (Wallace’s) pit crew is not doing well. In a meeting with Joe Gibbs Racing, I thank them for everything they do for me and then we walk out of that meeting into another and I’m cussing them out. Just not doing a good enough job over there.
“ … Then the freak thing happens with (Busch’s car). We’ve got a new sponsor over there and the car is sitting in the garage for 100 laps. It’s agitating. Hopefully, we look back on this two months from now and say, ‘It’s just a little bump in the road,’ because, certainly, it’s not acceptable by any means.”
Busch understands there is a time to be honest and a time to try to lift a team’s spirits.
Busch sought to have some fun by having his face superimposed on John Belushi’s character from “Animal House” when Belushi’s character gives a comedic motivational speech.
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) April 4, 2022
“There are moments of seriousness on the facts,” Busch said Friday. “Then there’s the group rally moment, which I posted on social media for my guys of a fun, humorous, self-deprecating approach, but then the next day I’m at the shop working out with the guys during lunch break and pushing through the tough spots.”
Wallace said he’s learned to better handle frustrating moments.
“We had a couple of slow stops last week at Richmond, and we finally had the one that sent us back, which was the loose wheel,” Wallace said. “In those moments before, I would flip out on the radio.”
He didn’t this time.
“Every weekend is a new opportunity, and you sit there on the grid before the race and it’s like ‘one of these guys is going to win,'” he said.
For 23XI Racing, just snapping its slump would be a good start.