Bubba Wallace signs contract extension with 23XI Racing

Aug 11, 2022, 11:22 PM | Updated: Aug 12, 2022, 12:20 pm
Bubba Wallace smiles during NASCAR Cup Series auto race qualifying at the Michigan International Sp...

Bubba Wallace smiles during NASCAR Cup Series auto race qualifying at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022. Wallace won the pole position. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Bubba Wallace locked down his future with 23XI Racing on Friday and now is eyeing a spot in NASCAR’s playoffs for the first time in his career.

Wallace and 23XI announced a multiyear contract extension that keeps Wallace in the No. 23 Toyota that was the foundation of Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan’s race team. The organization was launched around the only Black driver competing at NASCAR’s top level and the many partners Wallace signed in 2020 when he became a central figure in the national reckoning on racial and social justice issues.

“It feels great to get this renewal done and to know I have a home at 23XI Racing,” Wallace said. “Thanks to M.J. and Denny for continuing to believe in me. We’ve come a long way together in less than two years and we’ve checked off some major goals along the way. We know we still have work to do, both on and off the race track, but I feel good about our team and the direction we’re heading.”

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

“I thought from Day 1 on joining this team that I wanted to make this where I retire and a place that I call home for a very long time,” Wallace said. “I’m just trying to do the best that I can and continue those efforts.”

The team expanded this season to add a second car, with veteran Kurt Busch as Wallace’s teammate. Busch will miss his fourth consecutive race on Sunday with concussion-like symptoms, which has put his playoff berth in jeopardy.

At the same time, Wallace is clawing toward his own spot in the 16-driver field. Wallace has never before made the Cup Series playoffs and heads into Sunday’s race at Richmond ranked a career-best 19th in the standings.

He’s coming off his first pole of the season last week at Michigan International Speedway and then a second-place finish that left him nearly in tears over falling just short of his second career win.

“We haven’t had the best season, but we’ve been able to turn it around and really shown what we are capable of these last handful of races,” Wallace said. “We know the urge to win is high and I thought that was the best opportunity that we had all year long, and just me replaying the last restart and wondering what could I have done different?

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

Wallace has four consecutive finishes of eighth or better, but he needs a victory in the remaining three regular-season races to get into the playoffs. NASCAR races at Richmond, the road course at Watkins Glen and then Daytona, where Wallace should be considering among the favorites.

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

“Without a doubt,” Wallace said when asked if he believes he can win in the regular season. “We’re really confident with what we’re bringing back for Sunday. Watkins Glen is just a race of 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 continue to do what we do like we’ve been doing the last four to five races.

“It seems to be working. Don’t ask what it is. I can’t really tell you. But it’s working.”

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

The event was one of the many initiatives Wallace has tackled as a key figure in diversity, equity and inclusion efforts with both 23I Racing and NASCAR. His “Live to be Different Foundation” allows Wallace to engage with the Charlotte-area community through backpack drives and the “Knowledge is Power Program” brings students to race tracks across the country.

Additionally, Wallace’s clothing design collaborations with both McDonald’s and Columbia Sportswear Company have brought NASCAR to a new audience.

Hamlin called Wallace “a key part of the early stages of 23XI” and said the team would continue pushing his career.

“The goal was to help him take his career to a higher level, and we have done just that,” Hamlin said. “Bubba is continuing to get more competitive each week. We’re excited to see his growth as he and the team work toward achieving our goals.”

___

More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Georgia Tech interim  head coach Brent Key talks to the team along the sideline during the first ha...
Associated Press

Georgia Tech stuns No. 24 Pitt 26-21 in Key’s coaching debut

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jeff Sims passed for a touchdown and ran for another, Hassan Hall piled up 157 yards rushing and Georgia Tech made interim head coach Brent Key a winner in his debut, stunning No. 24 Pittsburgh 26-21 on Saturday night. Five days after Key was promoted to replace Geoff Collins — fired four […]
21 hours ago
Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson (11) passes the ball while still in the pocket as Indiana's Ind...
Associated Press

Huskers beat Indiana 35-21 to end 9-game FBS losing streak

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Casey Thompson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another and Nebraska beat a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent for the first time in 364 days with a 35-21 victory over Indiana on Saturday night. Thompson, benched for a series in the first half and shaken up on a big hit in […]
21 hours ago
North Carolina State cornerback Aydan White (3) knocks the ball away from Clemson wide receiver Jos...
Associated Press

No. 5 Clemson tops No. 10 NC State 30-20 in ACC showdown

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) — DJ Uiagalelei ran for two touchdowns and threw for a third as No. 5 Clemson won its 11th consecutive game, its 37th straight at home and took control of the ACC Atlantic with a 30-20 victory over No. 10 North Carolina State on Saturday night. The Tigers (3-0 ACC) started 5-0 […]
21 hours ago
Memphis Grizzlies' Kennedy Chandler shoots between Milwaukee Bucks' Grayson Allen snd Sandro Mamuke...
Associated Press

Rookies, late rally lead Grizzlies over Bucks 107-102

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Rookie David Roddy scored 18 points, two-way signee Kenny Lofton Jr. added 17 and the Memphis Grizzlies used a late run to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 107-102 on Saturday night in the opening preseason game for both teams. Many of the star players for both teams didn’t play. Milwaukee All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo, […]
21 hours ago
LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) breaks away from Auburn safety Donovan Kaufman (1) in the first ...
Associated Press

LSU rallies for 4th straight win, 21-17 over Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — John Emery Jr. rushed for a tackle-breaking, 20-yard touchdown and Greg Brooks Jr. had a late interception to help LSU complete a 21-17, come-from-behind win over Auburn on Saturday night. LSU (4-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) fell behind 17-0 before Jayden Daniels brought the visiting Tigers back with help from Auburn blunders. […]
21 hours ago
Soccer fans enter the pitch during a clash between supporters at Kanjuruhan Stadium in Malang, East...
Associated Press

A look at some of the world’s major crowd disasters

MALANG, Indonesia (AP) — Police fired tear gas after several fights broke out at an Indonesian soccer match in East Java province when Persebaya Surabaya beat Arema Malang 3-2. Panic and a rush for the exit left over 100 people dead, mostly trampled to death, police said Sunday. Here’s a look at some of the […]
21 hours ago
Bubba Wallace signs contract extension with 23XI Racing