Michael Jordan was at Pocono Raceway as his team drove to their best finish; Driver comments
23XI Racing, is owned by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan with driver Bubba Wallace. The highly funded team is also a startup operation in the NASCAR Cup Series with 2021 being their debut season.
On Sunday at Pocono Raceway, fuel millage came into play. In the closing laps, the race leader dropped one after the next.
8 laps to go, Keselowski was out of fuel and forced to the pit lane. 3 to go, Byron ran out of fuel. Coming to the white flag, Hamlin ran out of fuel. The race leader was handed to Kyle Busch and he drove to the win.
At the checkered, Busch took home the win. Bubba Wallace finished 5th and grabbed the first top-5 for 23XI Racing.
Related: Pocono Race Results from June 27, 2021 (NASCAR Cup Series)
Wallace was on the same strategy as Hamlin as Wallace pitted on lap 87 of 140. However, Wallace was able to save more fuel with early communication to do so.
The team was 10 laps short. With a caution, these were only 3 laps short. Wallace took notice of the guys in front of him and saved more fuel than them.
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Bubba Wallace comments on first top 5 for 23XI Racing
“They were just telling me 80% (throttle) here, match lap times with the other guys,” Wallace said.
“I knew we were in a worse position than the #18, so we were just racing our race and I was doing as best as I could. But all in all, really solid weekend. Great race for DraftKings in their first race on our Camry is the first top five for our team. That’s a little pen-to-the-paper action to get them to re-sign, but all in all, just happy with how the weekend went.
He added, “Smooth sailing for the most part today. It was a little bit tricky. Perseverance. We got through it, and I’m proud of everybody.”
“A racer wants to win,” Wallace later told NBC Sports.
“If it’s got to save fuel to win, then hell yeah, I’ll do it. I’m not going against what the engineers say. They’ve got it all calculated out and numbered out to tell me what to do. That’s my job. Tell me what to do and I’ll execute that.”
Related: Bubba Wallace sets goals with 23XI Racing for the 2021 NASCAR season
Wallace on Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan started the season with extremely high goals. “I think he’ll win at least a couple races,” Jordan said before the season began.
Jordan was in the pit box this weekend at Pocono. A possible motivator for the new North Carolina based team.
After the 5th place run, Wallace fist pumped his crew after climbing from the car at Pocono. It wasn’t a win but it’s the team’s best finish to date.
“He understands,” Wallace told NBC of Michal Jordan. “Everybody talks about he’s a winner, he’s a champion, yeah, but he’s also a realistic person.”
“He wants to win, for sure, but he knows what it’s going to take for us to get there. It’s more from me. It’s more from the team. It’s more of a group effort.”
“He’s in the background watching and enjoying. He’s hooked. Having Michael Jordan hooked to NASCAR is huge and that’s getting a lot of other big names hooked as well and that’s what the sport needs. We’ll keep on doing on our own thing, keep plugging along.”
Wallace added later, “We wanted the playoffs when we started the season. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We know that we are in a hole, but it’s finishes like that, that we have to capitalize on the speed in our cars. Today shows what we can do. We’ve got to keep up the momentum.”
Related: Michael Jordan entering NASCAR spawned from a joke
Kyle Busch on getting closer to Hendrick
In recent weeks, Hendrick Motorsports has been on a path of overall dominance throughout their organization. However, Joe Gibbs Racing as a whole made progress at Pocono. 23XI Racing has an alliance with JGR.
“It’s just a matter of getting closer and having — you can’t always have a perfect race car, but getting closer to that 10 out of 10 type race car that you can have at the race track,” Busch said of Wallace and 23XI.
“That’s what is going to give you success, put you in those positions. Yes, he’s in our (team) meetings, he’s in there all the time. When we talk and stuff, especially earlier in the season when they didn’t have much communication yet started.”
“He would say, ‘Look, I had a four out of 10 car today. I had a six out of 10 car, seven,’ whatever it might have been. I bet you we get in the meeting (Monday) and he’s going to talk highly on his car. That’s going to be a step in the right direction for that bunch, for sure.”
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