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Bubba Wallace had high expectations coming into the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season after a strong second half in 2022. The 29-year-old would admit that his No. 23 team hasn’t met those expectations through the first eight races of the year. 

That needs to change, according to crew chief Bootie Barker, and there won’t be any excuses in the upcoming races with the 23XI Racing driver heading to tracks where he’s achieved considerable success in the recent past. 

Bubba Wallace struggling early in 2023

Bubba Wallace admitted he was the most confident he’d ever been before the start of the 2023 season. Unfortunately, that confidence hasn’t translated into results.

After a 20th-place finish at Daytona, a track where he’s been successful in the past, the driver headed out west, and things got worse before they got better. Wallace recorded a 30th and DNF at Auto Club before rallying the following week for an encouraging fourth-place run at Las Vegas.

He followed that run in Sin City with a 14th at Phoenix, but since then, things have been rough on the No. 23 team. The driver made a couple of glaring mistakes at Atlanta and Circuit of the Americas, which ended with finishes of 27th and 37th, respectively.

He scored a 22nd at Richmond and earned his second-best result of the year last week on the Bristol dirt, where he finished 12th. 

Crew chief says ‘no excuses’ in upcoming races

Bubba Wallace and Bootie Barker at Daytona
Bubba Wallace and crew chief Bootie Barker talk on pit road after racing in the Duels at Daytona. | Photo by Kyle Dalton

While Wallace has been hard on himself for his own mistakes, it’s a team sport and his team has let him down on several occasions, including a late pit road penalty at Richmond that erased any hopes of what appeared to be a top-10 finish.

This week crew chief Bootie Barker made a guest appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and talked about the season, including the struggles. Despite those issues, he said that he’s encouraged because the team regularly brings a fast car to the track, and acknowledged that speed needs to result in better finishes.

“I would say the majority of the time we definitely got speed,” Barker said. “We, as a group, though, the No. 23 car, we need to get better. We need to extract finishes from that speed. I feel like we will. We will. 

“I’m not saying this stretch of tracks (in the past) was necessarily our favorites as far as our group, but that’s no excuse. You got to run them. You got to do good. We better get after it here coming up. These are no excuse venues for us. Looking forward to them.”

Wallace found success on tracks in past

Looking ahead to the next four tracks and how Wallace has performed on them in the past and you understand Barker’s optimism. They include Martinsville, Talladega, Dover, and Kansas.

Starting with the Paperclip, the 23XI Racing driver earned his best career-finish on the half-mile track last year in the fall, finishing eighth. Talladega will always have a special place for the driver and his fans as it was the site of his first Cup Series win in 2021. Of all the tracks, Dover is where he’s had the least success, an 11th place in 2021, his best result.

Wrapping up the four-race stretch is Kansas, where the driver held off team co-owner Denny Hamlin last year and won for the second time in his Cup career. 

With so much success recently, Wallace is justifiably optimistic heading into the stretch of upcoming races. Sound familiar? It’ll be interesting to see now if the driver and team can convert that optimism into results.

For the latest breaking news and information about NASCAR’s three national series, check out @kdsportswriter on Twitter.


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