Running in the top-10 before both cars were taken out in a massive lap 262 crash during Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington seemed par for the course for the 23XI Racing Toyotas of Kurt Busch and Bubba Wallace.
Both drivers have had brief glimpses of solidity this season, with Wallace’s runner-up finish in the Daytona 500 in February while Busch was briefly the top Toyota driver this season, scoring two top-fives and four top-10s with a best finish of third at Atlanta.
Yet Busch sits 21st in points following his crash Sunday while Wallace sits 24th, with his Daytona finish and a stage win at Talladega the only saving graces in an otherwise dismal season. Again, both entries have shown speed multiple times this season, but it’s not a matter of driver talent, but other things such as equipment and pit communication issues.
Case in point, look at Trackhouse Racing. In their second season, they have Ross Chastain solidly in fifth in the points with two wins while Daniel Suarez has been steadily consistent with a pair of top-fives to complement his four top-10s so far this season. But in the off-season, Trackhouse acquired Chip Ganassi Racing, an organization that was no slouch when it came to Cup performance. It should come as no surprise how well they’re performing in 2022.
But looking back at 23XI, there were many who felt that with Denny Hamlin at the helm in the ownership role the team would be a Joe Gibbs Racing satellite. Instead, the team is more of a continuation of Leavine Family Racing – flashes of decency along with mediocre performances. Factor in a new car that all of the Toyota camp-not just 23XI but JGR-is trying to figure out still and the struggles are still plentiful.
Then there are the issues with the crew. There have been multiple issues of crew miscommunication and mistakes throughout the season at places such as Circuit of the Americas, Bristol, and Talladega. Several mistakes are being made on the No. 23 on race day that should be addressed if they haven’t yet because it isn’t just bad luck that’s afflicting both teams. Some of the issues are avoidable (who knows where the team may have finished had the crew not cost the No. 23 multiple spots on the last pit stop at Talladega) and those mistakes are piling up.
Busch is a Cup Series champion and Wallace is no stranger to success in NASCAR. Given the right equipment and given a team that is better in sync with itself can and should provide dividends for both drivers. They’ve both shown speed and solidity this season. But it’s a matter of change coming from within 23XI that could actually finish the job for both drivers.