Veteran Mike Wheeler will be serving as crew chief for Bubba Wallace and the newly formed 23XI Racing for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Wheeler, a native from Southold, New York, and a graduate of Michigan’s Kettering University with a degree in mechanical engineering, currently works as a competition director for Leavine Family Racing, which is set to cease operations following this season. He carries an abundant of experience as a crew chief as he has called 148 Cup Series races and 33 Xfinity Series races atop the pit box. He made his debut as a crew chief for Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team on a six-race interim role in 2014, served his first full-time season as a Cup crew chief in 2016 with Hamlin and last served as crew chief for Matt DiBenedetto with Leavine Family Racing in the 2019 Cup season. He also served as a full-time crew chief in the 2015 Xfinity Series season for Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota team that was piloted by eight different competitors.
The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season will serve as Wheeler’s fifth full-time season as a crew chief in the sport’s premier series.
The move for Wheeler to 23XI Racing reunites him with Denny Hamlin, whom Wheeler worked with as a crew chief at Joe Gibbs Racing for 112 races in the Cup Series (2014, 2016-2018) and six races in the Xfinity Series (2015). Together, Wheeler and Hamlin have won five Cup races, the 2016 non-point Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway and three Xfinity races, with a best points result of sixth place occurring twice in the 2016 and 2017 Cup Series seasons. Their biggest accomplishment was winning the 2016 Daytona 500 following a photo finish, where Hamlin edged Martin Truex Jr. at the finish line by a nose to claim one of NASCAR’s crown-jewel events. They also won the 2017 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
23XI Racing is a newly formed NASCAR Cup Series team owned by three-time reigning Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan that is set to make its debut in 2021, beginning at Daytona International Speedway for the 63rd running of the Daytona 500 on February 14, with Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s lone African-American competitor, to serve as the team’s driver. Plans of the team’s formation was first announced on September 20 and the team name, 23XI Racing, was revealed on October 22 as Wallace is set to sport the No. 23, Jordan’s number in NBA, on his car next season.
The announcement of Wheeler joining 23XI Racing served as one of two major announcements for the team on Friday, October 30. Earlier, Toyota announced their support for the team along with Joe Gibbs Racing, which will be forming a technical alliance with 23XI Racing.
Catch Wheeler’s return and 23XI Racing’s debut at Daytona International Speedway for the 63rd running of the Daytona 500 on February 14, 2021.