Toyota Racing – NCS Playoff Media Day – Bubba Wallace – 08.31.23

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 23XI Racing driver Bubba Wallace was made available to media as part of the NASCAR Playoff Media Day.

BUBBA WALLACE, No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota Camry TRD, 23XI Racing   

Did you celebrate at all on Saturday?

“Saturday, we got home about 1:30am. We didn’t go to bed until like 3 just from being wired, but I had the 23 team over Sunday, and we didn’t get too crazy, because we knew that Monday was right around the corner, so I had a couple adult beverages and played some pool. Just good to kind of kick back and celebrate with them and show that I’m proud of them of what we were able to do.”

What does it mean that Michael Jordan was there celebrating with you?

“I think that is a better question for the team members, because I would be interested to see how they felt. I thought it was really cool to share that with them. For me, that’s just MJ (Michael Jordan) being happy and proud and wanting to see his cars do well. To have the interaction with Bootie (Barker, crew chief) was really cool, the reaction with the crew was really neat, so I’m sure they felt really ecstatic over that.”

You said you are ecstatic for the crew, are you ecstatic for yourself too?

“Yeah, no doubt. From looking from where we were at the beginning of the season, wrecking out at COTA, I was just pissed off at myself for being in that spot, so put in the work and got us kind of back on track, and then you had to fight for it the last three or four weeks, so yeah, I’m definitely proud of myself. Watkins Glen was probably the best showcase of road course performance that I was able to put together to date, so yeah.”

Why did you call Scott Dixon before that race?

“(Steve) Lauletta (president, 23XI) set that up. He brought him over last year in Indy to the Grid, so it was cool to see him win Indy. Steve texted me – he set it up on Monday after Indy, and then Wednesday or Thursday, he was like have you talked to him yet, and I’m like no, because I’m not the type of person to reach out. I was like let me get some laps under my belt after practice and qualifying, and I felt pretty good about it, but just the mental side of things is where I struggled. I failed to shoutout Jordan Taylor too. I talked to him after Chicago. Just on race craft stuff and how to be better there, so I appreciate him as well. Apologize I didn’t mention him there. I know he really doesn’t need a mention, but there is a lot of people that I reached out to that helped out in a massive way, so I appreciate that.”

Was it because they were good at road course racing?

“Yeah, hands down.”

Or because Scott Dixon is a champion?

“it’s a little bit of everything, but it’s the road course side for me. It’s hard because those guys don’t drive my car, and that was the first thing that he said – I need to see some data, and he was like I want to help out more, so I thought that was pretty cool.”

How far can you go?

“Well, if I don’t do anything dumb, I hope to be racing at Phoenix, right? Don’t miss any weeks, no vacation. I think we are a lot better than 16th. I look at this first round, as one of the strongest of any of the top 16. Darlington, we ran fourth in the spring, Kansas, we know we can do Kansas. Bristol, Bristol we need a little more magic there, but top-10 car. Second round is where we are starting to work on that. Texas, we’ve been okay at. Talladega style is, Talladega, and then the ROVAL. We ran top 10 at, but don’t feel good about that one. Then the third round, I feel pretty good. So if we can do what we know how to do in the first round and maintain or do some stuff in the second round, there is no reason we can’t be top eight, top four. I really feel good about that, but definitely not a 16th place car.”

Is there an edge to have your teammate and car owner in the Playoffs?

“Yes, it is nice to be able to have people to rely on and get some insight, but at the end of the day they are competitors, so we’ve got to go beat them. We are all working hard towards one goal, and that is bringing a championship home for 23XI.”

Do you think about how hard you’ve worked to get to this point, or do you have to put that to the side?

“I think in the moment, you are like we made it, good job, but time never stops. You have to keep going. You have to be so ready for the next task at hand. Now I’m focused on getting to Darlington and executing.”

What would make this a great Playoffs?

“For it to be great, you have to be great. I think I’m pumped to be an underdog. We know we are way more capable of being better than 16th, but we know if we don’t execute, we can see our happy asses in 16th. We just have to go out and do what we know how to do, and just do it. Not get complacent and be one of those front running cars over the next 10 weeks. We know it’s a tall task, but we can do it.”

Where is the disconnect from getting stage points, but not getting those same finishes?

“Yeah, the last month or so, running fine but not finishing worth a damn, so I’m like what are we doing, like I’m legit asking what are we doing to dial ourselves out? We are all scratching our heads because we kind of noticed a trend earlier this year when we kind of had the same thing going on where we were really good to start the race and then nowhere to be talked about in the end. It was like we did a half-pound of air pressure out of the left front, holy cow that is it. Well, we weren’t doing that, and we still had the same result. I don’t know. But we hope that is gone. We hope we can finish out the races where we need to be. Just goes back to just grind. You have to grind and work hard through the whole thing.”


“There is nothing easy about the spot that we are in, so I think that’s looking at every avenue and not expecting the same results as before. Am I expecting to show up and qualify second again, no because I want to qualify on the pole. We missed it by just a little bit. Am I expecting to run fourth, no I want to run first, but it is not that easy. You can sit there and dream about it, but you have to put in the work and dedication to make this happen. The guys at the shop have to do the same thing. We can’t miss a nut or a bolt, loose screw or anything. We’ve got make sure the bodies are right and do everything we can to make sure our cars are up to par and beyond that.”

Did you pull anything from last season’s owner playoff run?

“Yes, but for me, it is just another race. It is another set of 10 races. Saturday is another practice, another qualifying, and Sunday is another race. I think the things you learn last year is how you race, how you approach things, but I made a lot of mistakes last year that I regret, and there is a lot of learning curves coming out of that, setting you up for this year. I was saying this was going to be our best year yet, so I’m glad it’s living up to par. We still have to continue to fight, because a couple of bad races and you are out.”

Did you have time for any of your stress relievers (drumming, photography) before the races recently?

“I have to schedule when I go to the bathroom, it’s that crazy (laughter). I didn’t really have much time. Music is there every day, so you have time for that. Drumming, there’s some dust on all of the cymbals. Photography, clearly, I have my camera with me, but yeah, I try to find any escape that I can. Really, I’m cool, calm and collected. No stress right now.”

How is your mental game in handling this pressure?

“It’s funny, I read that. We had the opportunity to do media during the week to free up the obligations at the race track and to focus on what we needed to do, which was get the 23 car in the Playoffs. That’s the most important thing. As much as talking to media is really important, I’m sorry y’all don’t pay my bills (laughter). I did my obligations before then and then, some of the stuff gives a bad light on my PR team, and it’s not really fair for her because she does a really good job at keeping my schedule really clear and doing all of the stuff that we need to do to get by, not just get by, but things that are going to be good for the brand, good for the team, so to go out and do all of that stuff earlier in the week, it was like hey, let’s go focus on the race now. Then you get back and you see that Bubba Wallace is mentally fragile and doesn’t want to do interviews, and you are like, I was good. I could have stayed on pit road and talked to y’all for hours, but I guess people handle their stress differently, because absolutely, I was stressed to the max. I’ve never been stressed like that before. I’ve never been in this situation before. I’ve always been 20th-21st, 200 points out in a must win situation, 10 loose wheels later. It was like oh, ok. Now that I’m in here, I’m experiencing somethings that I never have, and how to I handle this. Let’s talk to media. Let’s give them – hey I’m stressed out on Wednesday. I’m going to be stressed out until the checkered flag falls on Saturday, but continue to talk about it – how do you feel? Are you going to come up and talk to me in Daytona at 12:00 and then 1 o’clock and ask me the same question? Well, I answered that on Wednesday. I’m stressed. So, for it to offend people that I declined an interview. I didn’t really decline. We did our obligations and we made sure we were focused on the task at hand, which is the most important thing. That was the main goal in all of that.”

What are your thoughts on Kurt Busch?

“I hate the circumstances that put Kurt in where he’s at. I saw it happen live. I was 20 car lengths behind him. To see him, try to fight and try to get back in the car was something that I was always proud of because he was determined to get back in. My wife (Amanda) would always come up to me and was like Kurt (Busch) is so adamant on getting back in the car, what’s his progress like? I’m like I don’t know, I think everything is going okay, and I don’t know the time frame. I think we would all love to see Kurt back in a car, but I think the progress kind of flatlined, and he started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and the next thing for him was to retire. As lustrous of a career as he had and how he came in – the conversation I had with (Kevin) Harvick at Indy, I guess that would be 2021. I went over to Harvick to squash our beef. I was like, hey, how is Kurt, because he’s coming over. He’s like he’s good, he’s really, really good. He makes teams better. His setups are a little wonky (laughter) but he’s really, really good. He was right. He made our team better. He made our team progress faster than if was just me. He’s always given positive insight and constructive insight on how to make this better. He came up to me a couple of times and said that you need to be a better teammate. You need to do certain things to help out the leaders of this team, and I was like oh, okay. I like Kurt for who he is because he doesn’t sugar coat anything. He comes up to you and delivers it straight and that is what I try to do. So, yeah, I’m happy for Kurt, but bummed for him because he didn’t want to go out like that.”

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