2022 Cup Series Season in Review: 23XI Racing
23XI Racing had a solid inaugural season last year with Bubba Wallace scoring the organization’s first win at Talladega. The organization, co-owned by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan, added a second car and veteran Kurt Busch this past offseason to the roster. Most experts thought the addition of the 2004 Cup Series champion would be a huge asset to the team. They were right.
The 44-year-old won a race and helped mentor Wallace to the best season of his career, including a win of his own. Unfortunately, both drivers also made headlines for something other than their on-track performances. Here’s a look back at the second year of 23XI Racing.
23XI Racing adds Kurt Busch and he delivers team’s second win
After Bubba Wallace opened the season and came up just feet short of winning the Daytona 500, Kurt Busch proved early on that his move to 23XI Racing was a good one in the first five races, scoring three top-10 finishes, including a fifth at Phoenix and third at Atlanta.
The veteran driver struggled in the next handful of races but rebounded in early May, earning his 34th career Cup win and first with his new team at Kansas, outdueling Kyle Larson for the victory. He showed that same speed throughout the month, scoring a third-place finish at Gateway and a runner-up at Nashville.
Wallace was average for the first half of the season and didn’t score his second top-10 result until his teammate won at Kansas. However, during the back end of the year, the 29-year-old driver came to life with Busch’s guidance, and recorded a career-best eight top-10 finishes for the season (half of them top 5s), including his second career win in the second race of the year at Kansas.
Busch and Bubba Wallace make headlines for wrong reasons
In late July, Kurt Busch backed his No. 45 car into the wall during qualifying at Pocono. No one could have imagined that lone impact would have the impact it had on the driver, the team, and the entire garage.
Busch never strapped on his helmet again and missed the season’s final 16 races with a concussion. His injury brought attention to the car’s overall safety, specifically those rear impacts. In October in Las Vegas, the driver announced he was retiring from full-time racing.
Ironically, that same weekend, his teammate made headlines for his on-track decision and actions that followed, when Wallace deliberately wrecked Kyle Larson after being squeezed into the fence, then exited his car and confronted the Hendrick Motorsports driver in the infield grass, where he proceeded to push him numerous times, before ignoring a NASCAR safety official’s orders and walking back to the infield care center.
NASCAR suspended Wallace for the following race at Homestead.
Overall grade: B-
Looking back on the year, Kurt Busch lived up to the billing and helped elevate 23XI Racing with a win while offering counsel to the younger Wallace, which allowed the driver to achieve the best season of his career.
Based on the on-track performance alone, the team would score a B+. However, Busch’s concussion only allowed him to compete in 20 races so he didn’t get to show his full potential and didn’t match most of his numbers from the year before. Wallace’s incident and subsequent behavior at Las Vegas was not a good look for the organization, as team co-owner Denny Hamlin admitted, and affected the overall score.
As a result, 23XI Racing receives a B- for the year and has room for improvement, which should come next season with Tyler Reddick coming in and taking over for Busch.
By the numbers
2021 | 2022
2021 | 2022
|Wins||1 | 1||1 | 1|
|Top 5s||3 | 5||6 | 5|
|Top 10s||3 | 10||14 | 8|
|Top 20s||20 | 20||27 | 12|
|Average Start||19.9 | 18.4||14.6 | 15.0|
|Average Finish||19.7 | 18.3||15.5 | 16.9|
|Laps Led||62 | 150||208 | 182|