Confidence, confidence in Wallace, 23XI Racing in full swing

There was no way to keep Bubba Wallace out of victory lane Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

After dropping back to 30th with a loose wheel in the middle of the Hollywood Casino 400, Wallace fought his way through the pack and led the final 43 laps to claim his second NASCAR Cup Series victory.

Although the #45 Toyota 23XI Racing driver faced turbulence throughout the race, his resilience to pass was the deciding factor in the 28-year-old’s triumph.

“We had a loose wheel, so something went wrong. We really capitalized, though, I think, in those times,” Wallace said. “Before, I would be frustrated. I was frustrated. I thought we had a really good car. You never know what’s going to happen when we get back there. I knew we had a lot of laps ahead of us. Let’s take our time, go back over there and hold three or four laps. We were already in the top 20, I think.

“I just had to have a level mindset for it. Like, ‘OK, we’re going to bounce back from some adversity.’

Wallace gestures towards the camera after his win at Kansas. (Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

“Then, honestly, I started calling the shots. I said, ‘When we cross the threshold of the fifth, it ramps up, and we have to be ready for that.’ Then I said, ” Once we’ve taken the lead here, our balance has to be able to hang on to it,” and it fell into our hands.

The leadership shown in the 400-mile race helped lift the No. 45 team which had faced pit road issues earlier in the season.

Thanks to these tests, a more prepared and confident 23XI Racing team, with longtime NASCAR team manager Bootie Barker, helped put the parts together on race day.

“Really, since we’ve been unloading all weekend as far as Bubba is concerned, I mean when you have positive momentum when you get it right – I’m very careful to say that. I mean that in — I don’t know, it’s easy. OK, but it’s not easy. My point is,” Barker said with his voice trailing off.

“It makes it easier,” Wallace added.

“Yeah. Practice is going well,” Barker continued. “He and I are talking. We don’t even have to talk long. He tells me what he needs. We’re working on it. We’re going fast.

“You qualify well. You get a good selection of pits. It’s just that all these things pile up. That’s all you need to do.

“Right now it’s definitely click, we’re doing well,” Barker added. “As for the way he drove the race, I didn’t tell him that, think about it: at the end of the race he takes the lead or he takes the lead on his own and stretches the lead. Stretching the lead, it gives me the ability to just go – JR (Houston, strategy and systems engineer) and I sit there and call the races. We knew that with the lead he had given us, all we had to do was protect ourselves behind us. We had a hedge to do it. It makes things easier.

“Then the pit crew, he got on well and got out of pit road. Better than anyone else. They made a great stop. So you left. You are in front. You have it.”

Barker said Wallace was lucky to have a decisive lead.

September 11, 2022: Bubba Wallace Jr celebrates winning the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.  (HHP/Tom Copeland)
Wallace celebrates his second career NASCAR Cup victory. (HHP/Tom Copeland)

“A testimony from Bubba, however, he did not push his car. I let him know how far ahead he was,” Barker noted. “Really, he rolled. He saved his car. He didn’t worry. He made no mistake. He didn’t burn his things. He knew the guys were behind him, and he just ran what he had to do.

“It takes a lot of discipline and not letting the moment get too big. He didn’t do it at all,” Barker continued. “Really, the moment didn’t get too big for any of us. We did what we had to do. I’m proud of him. I am proud of our team.

One of the main reasons the moment wasn’t too big for the No. 45 squad on Sunday was their recent consistency.

Over the last 10 races, Wallace has the highest average in the garage area of ​​10.1, one position better than Christopher Bell (11.6), who is second best over the last 10 races.

The performance boost came as Wallace felt more comfortable testing the limits of his Toyota race car.

“What I struggled with in the Cup car before was confidence in the car and confidence in it,” Wallace said. “With this car, I was sidelined. I had shoulder surgery just after the season and I didn’t have a lot of tests, but I thought I had to improve, do a better job and push the car to its limits.

“If you don’t, you don’t know where the car limit is,” Wallace continued. “The last – really all year, as Bootie said. We did a good job. The results didn’t show that, but if I take a minute and brag, that’s my best season of getting in the race car and being, like, ‘Okay, mate, it’s time to go to work, and you just leave it all there and don’t regret any decision you make. Look how we ran.

“It all starts with yourself. If you don’t show up with confidence, you won’t run very well, so you absolutely have to show up with that.

As Wallace continues to pursue the Owners’ Championship aboard the #45 Toyota with teammate Kurt Busch on the sidelines, his outlook is simple:

Keep moving forward for the final eight races.

“You know, winning it that way, yeah, that’s really really cool. We talked about when we go to the fast lanes and not so much the rest of the tracks, so I want to start changing that,” said Wallace: “We’ve been able to show the last two months or so, all the different types of race tracks, and get people talking about us. It’s great. It’s a step in the right direction.”

“We just can’t be complacent. We have to keep going, keep pushing for more. It’s great, but we have to keep going out and fighting. I appreciate the opportunity given to me at the moment with the team that I have and I want to continue. »

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