Bubba Wallace signs multiyear contract extension with 23XI Racing

Bubba Wallace cemented his future with 23XI Racing on Friday and is now aiming for a NASCAR playoff spot for the first time in his career.

Wallace and 23XI announced a multi-year contract extension that will keep Wallace in the #23 Toyota that was the foundation of Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan’s racing team. The organization was formed around the only black driver to compete at NASCAR’s top level and the many partners Wallace signed in 2020 as he became a central figure in the national reckoning on issues of racial and social justice.

“It feels great to have completed this renewal and to know that 23XI Racing is my home,” said Wallace. “Thanks to MJ and Denny for continuing to believe in me. We have come a long way together in less than two years, ticking off some important goals. We know we both still have work to do and off the track, but I have a good feeling about our team and the direction we’re going.”

Wallace had no intention of testing the free-agent market because he believes his only future is with NASCAR at 23XI.

“When I joined this team, I thought from day one that I wanted to create this place that I would retire to and a place that I would call home for a very long time,” Wallace said. “I’m just trying to do my best and continue that effort.”

A second car was added to the team this season, with veteran Kurt Busch as Wallace’s teammate. Busch will miss his fourth straight race on Sunday with concussion-like symptoms, which has threatened his place in the playoffs.

At the same time, Wallace is scratching his own place in the field of 16 drivers. Wallace has never made the Cup Series playoffs before and heads into Sunday’s race in Richmond a career-best 19th overall.

He clinched his first pole of the season and then a second-place finish last week at Michigan International Speedway that almost brought him to tears after narrowly missing out on his second career win.

“We didn’t have the best season, but we were able to turn things around and really show what we can do in these last few races,” Wallace said. “We know there is a strong desire to win and I thought this was the best opportunity we had all year and I was just repeating the last restart and wondering what could I have done differently?

“I’m in a much better place today; I see how incredible our team played… to put us in this position. So much to celebrate and be grateful for, but in that moment, the sign of defeat got me there in a second.”

Wallace has four consecutive eighth-place finishes, but he needs a win in the remaining three regular-season races to make the playoffs. NASCAR races at Richmond, the street circuit at Watkins Glen, and then Daytona, where Wallace would be a favorite.

Wallace earned his only career win, the first for the 23XI organization, at Talladega last fall. At Daytona, Wallace has four top-five finishes in 10 career cup starts. Three of those placements were second.

“Without a doubt,” Wallace said when asked if he thinks he can win in the regular season. “We’re really confident in what we’re bringing back for Sunday. Watkins Glen is just a race for survival, you never know what can happen. But then Daytona, I think we’re one of the favorites going into that. We just have to keep going like we’ve been doing for the last four or five races.

“It seems to work. Don’t ask what it is. I can’t really tell you. But it works.”

The extension was announced a day after Wallace invited more than 3,500 people at Richmond Raceway to the inaugural Bubba’s Block Party, which he hopes will bring a younger, more diverse audience to NASCAR.

The event was one of many initiatives Wallace has tackled as a key figure in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at both 23XI Racing and NASCAR. His Live to be Different Foundation allows Wallace to engage with the community in the Charlotte area through backpacking, and the Knowledge is Power program takes students to racetracks across the country.

Additionally, Wallace’s apparel design collaborations with McDonald’s and Columbia Sportswear Company brought NASCAR to new audiences.

Hamlin called Wallace “a key role in the early stages of 23XI” and said the team will continue to advance his career.

“The goal was to help him take his career to a higher level and that’s what we did,” Hamlin said. “Bubba is getting more competitive every week. We are excited to see his growth as he and the team work to achieve our goals.”

https://www.espn.com/racing/nascar/story/_/id/34389573/bubba-wallace-signs-multiyear-contract-extension-23xi-racing Bubba Wallace signs multiyear contract extension with 23XI Racing

Emma Bowman

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