Pit crew issues plagued Wallace in Sunday’s Cup race at Nashville Superspeedway, spurring a terse radio exchange with crew chief Bootie Barker.
Wallace had the fastest car in practice, but the car got out of shape in qualifying and he started 30th. He made his way to seventh at the end of the first stage.
In the second stage, he had a loose wheel. When he was told to stop, he was hit from behind by another car. By the time Wallace came back to pit road and the issue was fixed, he was a lap down.
Shortly after returning to the track, Wallace unleashed his frustration on the radio.
“Everything is good right now,” Barker said on the radio. “Obviously, we are a lap down. I apologize for that.”
Wallace responded: “Leave me the … alone, dude. Don’t talk to me the whole … entire race.”
Barker said: “I am, and we’re not out of it. Keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll be just fine. I know you are pissed and you deserve to be.”
That exchange came a day after Wallace told reporters he needed to do a better job of having the right mindset when facing challenges.
“It gets frustrating at times,” Wallace said. “You get run over or you have a bad stop, or I go and hit the fence somewhere. It sets you back.”
Busch understands Wallace’s frustrations, having had similar blowups on the radio earlier in his career. Among the reasons Busch was brought to 23XI Racing was to provide a veteran presence for Wallace.
“I’m like, ‘Hey, man, I’ve been here,” Busch told reporters Tuesday of his message to Wallace. “‘I’m right there with you. I’m a racer. I’m passionate. We just have to get to that next level of professionalism.’
“I’ve made those mistakes, and he’s making those mistakes and yet, it’s still a matter of just relying on all elements and all people within the team.
“So yes, I’m involved. But Bootie Barker is the leader of that 23 car. You know, we’ve got Denny (Hamlin) as our team owner and (Michael Jordan).
“Everybody’s circling around on what the real core issue is. And that’s the consistency on the pitstops with the 23 car. So Bubba is right, but we just got to get that problem fixed. And we got to handle it the right way.”
The pit crew issues have been across most Toyota teams. Joe Gibbs Racing supplies the pit crews for 23XI Racing. Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson has been critical of the pit crew performance, telling NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan last week: “Across the board, other than (Kyle Busch’s) team, our execution in pit lane has been all over the place. It’s been embarrassing at times.”
Busch said the help he is giving Wallace is what he received earlier in his career.
“Early in my career, I just, I wish I would have comprehended more from Mark Martin,” Busch said of his former teammate at what was Roush Racing. “He was always there to help. When I asked questions, and when he would give advice, it was genuine.
“That’s what I found through my crew chiefs. It’s always the crew chief that’s going to give you the most genuine leadership answer. And so that’s what Bubba needs to do. It’s what we all need to do is just circle around the crew chiefs here, as well as JGR, and rely on their experience levels to help build this whole Toyota group together.”
Wallace’s frustration is understandable. Nashville was not a fluke in disappointing results.
Wallace had a strong car at Kansas last month but two pit road penalties kept him from finishing better than 10th. After the race he told NBC Sports: “Pit crew sucks.”
Barker had a four-race suspension after a wheel came off Wallace’s car at Circuit of the Americas.
Wallace had to come back to pit road at Talladega because of a loose wheel.
But it’s also been other issues. Wallace finished last at Sonoma when his engine expired after nine laps. He was collected in a pair of incidents at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Wallace was forced out of the Coca-Cola 600 because his team misunderstood the requirements of the damaged vehicle policy after suffering light damage in an incident.
“It’s just such bad luck for that 23 car,” Busch said after his runner-up finish Sunday at Nashville of Wallace. “I haven’t seen anything like it.”
On the latest @NASCARonNBC Podcast, @JeffBurton analyzed the challenges #nascar Cup teams are facing with trying to adapt to single lugnut stops this season and why the pit crew fixes aren’t so simple.
— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) June 28, 2022