Things didn’t start well as Wallace’s team failed two pre-race inspections and was sent to the back of the field to start the race. On the track, he made history, becoming the first Black driver to lead a lap at The Great American Race.
Conversely, he was involved in a last-lap crash that cost him, finishing in 17th place. To add insult to injury, after the weekend, Wallace’s team received a post-race violation that came with a hefty fine.
Bubba Wallace fails pre-race inspections and sent to back
Before the start of the Daytona 500, Bubba Wallace and the No. 23 car didn’t begin the 2021 NASCAR season on a good note. Before driving a single lap of the race, the team suffered a major setback when the car failed two pre-race inspections.
Instead of starting sixth, where Wallace qualified, he was sent to the back of the field to start the race. Team co-owner Denny Hamlin was asked about the penalty before getting into his own car. Understanding the business from a driver’s perspective, he took it all in stride.
“It happens in our sport all the time. You see multiple failures. They’re trying to get everything they can get and that car’s been really fast all week.”
Bubba Wallace finishes 17th at Daytona 500
The No. 23 car driven by Bubba Wallace was fast all week in qualifying. Starting at the back of the field undoubtedly increased the risk of getting caught up in a big accident, but based on the week’s pre-race laps, most thought if Wallace could avoid that, he’d finish in the top 10.
That’s precisely what happened until it didn’t. Wallace methodically made his way through the field. Late in stage two, he made history when he took the lead and became the first Black driver to lead a lap at the Daytona 500. He finished third in the stage.
The 27-year-old had run a solid race and appeared destined for a top-10 finish with 22 laps to go when he felt a vibration because of a loose wheel. The resulting pit stop dropped him back in the field. He pushed to regain position when he was taken out in a big crash on the final lap that involved eight cars.
Bubba Wallace finished 17th.
Team fined for post-race violations at Daytona
Mike Wheeler, Bubba Wallace’s crew chief, had a rough week in Daytona. On Sunday, he had his first awkward conversation with car owner Michael Jordan explaining why the No. 23 car failed a couple of pre-race inspections. After the race, Wheeler found himself in hot water with NASCAR.
In NASCAR’s penalty report from last week’s events at Daytona, the 23XI Racing crew chief was fined $10,000 for lug nut infractions discovered following Thursday’s Duel qualifying races. The No. 23 car had one unsecured lug nut in the post-race inspection.
It was undeniably a spotty start to the 2021 NASCAR season for the 23XI Racing Team. The question is whether or not this is just a one-time occurrence, which can be attributed to first-race jitters, or it’s just the first indication of a blossoming problem.