23XI Racing driver Bubba Wallace was made available to media prior to the Talladega Superspeedway race this Saturday:
BUBBA WALLACE, No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota Camry TRD, 23XI Racing
What has the impact of have Kurt Busch as a teammate impact you as a driver?
“Kurt (Busch) has a ton of knowledge, a ton of experience. It’s good to have that – I’ve never really had a teammate at the Cup level. We’ve had affiliates, but to have somebody that is feeling the same thing and going through the ups and downs and whatnot. He can go back and relate what have – we have conversations. I called him going into Richmond. Our seasons really haven’t been much to brag about. We’ve just been behind a little bit. He’s rallied to some good finishes, so just understanding that. Giving him a chance to stay in the game, that shows our team that we need to do the same. We just need to have a chance at the end of races to capitalize on things. Even if it’s not a good race, just to be there and stay in. So, understanding how he runs the race and manage it. I talk to him in our Monday morning meetings. Just a notebook for us to continue to grow. Kurt’s a lot of fun. He’s very competitive so that helps both of us.”
Have there been any meetings this week about Talladega?
“I think our meeting is tomorrow. We will see what happens. We’ve got to work together. I think it’s important for us to work together. There is only six of us, so just to have a gameplan. These races have become such a manufacturer race. I remember being a part of the Chevy meetings and they were very strict on who we could work with and who not to work with. If you didn’t, there were repercussions. For us, at the same time, you do have your own goal and for us, it’s not to wreck and be there at the end. If you see that you are in a sketchy situation where you are helping out your teammates, you do have a decision to bail because you do have to look out for yourself at the end of the day. It’s a fine line of walking – selfish versus unselfish – and so I think sometimes we talk a big game, and nothing happens. If you get some drivers that will stand behind their words and will work with you all day, it’s been good. What we were seeing at Daytona, we worked really well together. Kyle (Busch) was pushing a lot. It’s there. I’m looking forward to our race, working with our teammates and seeing how it goes.”
What about the aggression level?
“It’s a lot easier to widen things out here because of the size of the track. It’s hard for me to predict. Honestly, I think everybody’s going to be aggressive at the start and it’s going to be sketchy at times. This track allows it to be easier. At the same time, we are Cup drivers, we’re going to get this top riding just to survive to the end of stages. I hope that doesn’t happen. I like when it’s double-file and we’re racing, but at the same time if someone steps over the line that’s when the crashes happen. We are in the Cup Series. We all know how hard it is to win, so you have to be aggressive.”
Were there any special emotions walking around here?
“No, to be honest with you. I sit here and think about it a lot and people put so much emphasis on the win. We talk about it, talk about it, talk about it and it builds it up. I just like to keep it low key, under the radar. That’s how I like to roll about life. Some people may disagree. But it is special to be here. I’m excited. I know how good our speedway cars are and if Freddie (Kraft, spotter) and I do what we can to do at these speedway races like we’ve been doing then I know we will have a shot to win. It’s a team effort. I’m not just singling out Freddie, but as long as we stay in the race and maintain where we are at and just have a fighting chance, it will be a good day. That’s what I look forward to the most. I don’t set any special mindsets for these speedway races. Daytona, we just happened to be there at the right time and capitalized on the opportunity. Coming off of turn four at Daytona, I said hell, I’m going to push (Ryan) Blaney to the win because I’ve got no shot with the way we were kind of single file. Well, not single file, but where I was at. I was like I’ve got no shot, then it just so happened that I almost won the damn thing. Talladega last year, Bootie (Barker, crew chief) said get us to the front and we did that. Just having the chance, having the opportunity, to be there at the right time, that is what it is all about.”
What were the repercussions of not working with the right people at Chevy?
“We weren’t the a-team, so it didn’t really matter for us. It was different for the top teams versus us.”
When did things really click for you on how to navigate a plate race? Was it a specific race?
“No, not really. I remember the cutoff race in 20(20) – it was Willy B’s (William Bryon) first win. We took the lead for a split second and then (Joey) Logano got wrecked from behind and kind of got shoved in my door and we cut a tire and that was with a few to go. That was the race that I continue to relive in my head, because I know – that was the one where I was like oh, shit, we’re going to win. It’s going to be awesome. I feel like we’ve always had speed in the Cup cars. We finished 15th in my first Cup race in 2017. We had speed. For me, it’s been about surviving and understanding the game. We always had speed in the 43, and I do go back and watch your videos Bob (Pockrass). They are very beneficial for the drivers you ask about me, so I appreciate that. I understand my own crap and how to be better. But listening to like what Logano said that I was more patient and let the races come to me. You ask me on the spot on what changed, I don’t freaking know. It doesn’t feel like anything has changed, just the finishes have gotten better, but then you go back and hear those comments and you think yes, I guess they are right. It’s nice to hear somebody else’s perspective on what has changed. I guess just being more relaxed. Hopefully, we have a good enough car to qualify up front and stay up there for a little bit. If we qualify mid-pack, I’m going to drive my tail off to get up there and see what our car does. I might make an impatient move and get shoved out of line and go to the back and ride, because that is where you see the lay of the land and where we are at. I can’t give you a clear answer on what has clicked, just the finishes have been coming.”
Do you emphasize with Brandon Brown’s situation, or have you talked to him at all?
“Brandon (Brown) is a good guy. I ran into him – we ran into each other, and both congratulated each other on our wins. The people inside of our four walls of this sport understand and get it and that’s what I need to wrap my head around instead of trying to make the others – outside of the walls that are just looking at – we know that how tough it is to win a Cup race and there has been plenty of rain-shortened races, the darkness stuff. There’s been plenty of instances where those have happened, and teams have capitalized on it. The people that aren’t fans of yours and just going to continue to carry that to the grave that it was rigged, or we only won because it rained. All of the 40 drivers in the field knew it was going to rain, why didn’t they win? You can’t spend too much time on there and feed into that, although I do go back and read the comments. Every post that I click on there. I just go back and read the comments because it’s like ugh, no, still dumbasses today.”
Toyota Racing PR