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NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace learns from Kurt Busch at 23XI Racing | NASCAR | Sports

NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace learns from Kurt Busch at 23XI Racing | NASCAR | Sports

For the first time in Bubba Wallace’s career racing full time in the NASCAR Cup Series, he had a teammate.

Las Vegas native Kurt Busch joined Wallace at 23XI Racing for the 2022 season. It was the second campaign for the race team co-owned by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan.

Though Busch has since retired, the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion is still involved with the team. His most important role is helping serve as a mentor to Wallace and teammate Tyler Reddick.

“Bubba is in his prime right now. Bubba has years of experience,” Busch said. “It’s great to see him charge into this season with his attitude and focus. He knows he’s in the mix and it’s time to grab another gear.”

Wallace enters Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway fourth in the NASCAR Cup Series point standings. Wallace sits three points behind points leader Kyle Busch and is the only driver to record top-five finishes the first two races of the season.

“(Busch has) believed in me since day one,” Wallace said. “He’s there when I mess up, but he’s also there to sing my praises to keep me going in the right direction. He’s only a phone call or a text message away for when I do have something I need to talk to him about and that’s something that’s very beneficial for me.”

Busch and Wallace teamed up in 2022, the first year of NASCAR’s new car model: The NextGen.

Busch said he saw Wallace’s growth take off once Wallace had a teammate to talk about how his car was driving.

“I felt like I was the mentor and the fun uncle when I signed on with 23XI,” Busch said. “I could just see his growth find another level in the three years that we’ve been together.”

Wallace said Busch’s insight helped him find new “avenues” to look out for on the car and at the track.

“I was excited to have Kurt on board and learn a lot from him,” Wallace said. “Just the way his mind works and the little things he looks out for every weekend. He brings in a perspective you never think about.”

Busch’s driving time at 23XI ended prematurely. At Pocono Raceway on July 23, 2022, Busch — who won at Kansas earlier in the season — spun out and crashed during a qualifying lap.

He was sidelined with a concussion. Busch announced his retirement from full-time racing later that year in October at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Busch remained around the team to help Wallace and continue his role as a mentor.

“It was tough,” Wallace said of Busch’s retirement. “But at the same time, he’s embracing where he’s at right now. He feels like he has a different objective and goal to fulfill, and that’s to prep Tyler and I for the races coming up.”

Coined as 23XI Racing’s CFD — “Captain of the Fun Department” — Busch consults in all areas of the team on and off the race track.

“I feel like my time is worth the effort and that there’s more to do,” Busch said. “We want to keep pushing towards being one of those top elite teams like Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports or Team Penske. We’re right on the heels of those top three teams.”

Wallace made the playoffs last season and finished 10th in the final points standings, his best-ever finish. Reddick, driving the No. 45 car Busch used to drive, finished sixth and won at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Busch said Wallace is prepared to break through and be one of the top drivers in the series.

“He’s ready for that,” Busch said. “That’s a weight that’s on his shoulders and we’ll never know what it’s like to walk in his shoes. We just have to keep encouraging him to grow.”

Contact Alex Wright at [email protected]. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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