2021 season stats: 36 races, 1 win, 3 top 5s, 3 top 10s
2021 was a year of uncertainty for a lot of teams, but none had the weight that 23XI had placed on top of them before they hit the track in Daytona.
The team, owned by six time NBA champion Michael Jordan and perennial championship contender Denny Hamlin, were expected to compete right away.
The driver tasked with such heavy expectations? Bubba Wallace. Wallace was moving over from a heavily underfunded (at times) Richard Petty Motorsports. He showed flashes of how good he could be in the 43 for a few years, with his best finish of second in the Daytona 500. Along the way there were plenty of ups and downs, which ended with an amicable separation at seasons’s end.
2021 was an up and down season for the fledgling team. Results weren’t instantly there, and many critics and pundits were quick to point fingers at several people in the team. From Bubba to crew chief Mike Wheeler. The team achieved its first top-five finish at Pocono in July. Shortly before Bristol, Wheeler was replaced by long time NASCAR crew chief Bootie Barker. The results started to mesh out, and the team scored their first win at Talladega in October. At season’s end, the team finished 21st in the points. Wallace’s highest points finish to date, but it was a bit of a down season when compared to the expectations of wins and high finishes.
2022 will see the team expand to two cars, adding Kurt Busch who comes over from the shuttered Chip Ganassi Racing. He’ll act as a mentor of sorts to Wallace, who has a teammate for the first time since his days at Roush.
The key pieces are returning, as Bootie Barker moves from interim to full time crew chief and also adds Dave Rogers as the performance director. Rogers comes over from JGR’s Xfinity championship winning team.
The blueprints are there. It’s now time for Wallace to show out. As we learn more about the new car and expectations, it’s not out of question to see Wallace sneak into the playoffs. Even then it will take more consistent finishes inside and out of the top-ten.
Wallace’s job is secure for a little while, but soon the expectations have to be turned into reality.
Featured photo from @23XIRacing on Twitter.