Bubba Wallace has seen you. He’s heard you. He’s even taken to social media to respond to some of you. He knows the talk about him. The keyboard warriors taking to social media on how he’s not performed at NASCAR’s highest level yet. See, most of those “haters” and I use that term somewhat loosely because they’re something else in my mind but I’m not going to go there yet, use Wallace’s stats against him.
112 career starts. No wins. 3 top fives. 5 top 10’s. 34 laps led.
That’s the lazy way of hating on him. But, if you look at the equipment that he’s had for those 112 races, then you’d see that it’s been rather subpar. Nothing against Richard Petty Motorsports either, this isn’t to bash them, but they’re not as competitive as the big teams in the sport.
Some just look at the name Richard Petty and just assume that the No. 43 Chevrolet should be a contender in every race run. But, what they don’t look at is that RPM hasn’t been a contender in decades. They don’t have the financial backing that the big teams do. This is a 15th on back team. Not one that’s going to contend for race wins on a week in and week out basis.
So, for Wallace to get hate for his stats so far, well it’s certainly not fair. I even wrote about it then, but when Wallace finished runner-up in the 2018 Daytona 500, he’s going to get some backlash later for that. Not that a runner-up is bad, but for his first full time season to get a runner-up in the year’s biggest race, he’s going to get a lot of attention. Rightfully so too, but the new fans may not know that Wallace’s car isn’t going to race like that for much of the remaining races. The stats are going to drop off in a big way and don’t blame the driver for that.
Moral of the story is, Wallace has a ton of talent. He made RPM more of a contender than they actually are. Now though, the pressure is really going to start. See, as I’ve been saying, he’s had an excuse for all 112 of those starts. The car other than the four annual superspeedway races, isn’t going to be a winning one. It doesn’t matter what Wallace does, he’s not going to win the race. The car isn’t capable of it.
Now, he moves into a car capable of doing so. Yes, it’s a new team. But, that new team comes with much greater attention. It’s Michael Jordan’s team. That alone is going to garner even greater expectations. I mean, it’s the No. 23 too.
That’s going to gain new fans to the sport just by that fact alone. Michael Jordan with a NASCAR that’s No. 23. Then, you have the only African American driver in the series in the car itself.
Well…Jordan is about winning. Fans are going to expect that car to win and do so instantly.
Plus, you now get a car that’s going to be capable of winning. If this car doesn’t win, it’s not because of the team. Now, the blame is centered around the driver.
This is a Toyota with a Joe Gibbs Racing alliance. Martin Truex Jr. won 16 times with a similar role with Furniture Row Racing including the 2017 championship. This car isn’t a fifth JGR car, but it’s going to be close.
JGR won 19 times in 2019. They took a step back in 2020, but they still got Denny Hamlin to the Championship 4 for the second straight year. Hamlin, is also a co owner on this ride as well. Hamlin, like Jordan, is about winning. These two are a hell of a combination.
Wallace, 27, doesn’t have an excuse now. It’s either win or he’s not going to be around too long.
“It’s Dec. 14 right now, so it’s 17 more days until Jan. 1 – that’s when my new motto of ‘No More Excuses’ starts,” Wallace said Monday during a zoom teleconference. “So, for 17 more days, I’m gonna have every excuse in the book. But after that, there’s no more excuses why we can’t run up front and compete for wins and show the true talents that I believe I have … If Jan. 1 was (the Daytona 500), then I’m ready for it.”
Hamlin, joked that they’re not ready yet but does expect this team to be a front runner in 2021. He credits President Steve Lauletta as a large help to building this team up off the ground.
“(Lauletta) created a great priority list of what we needed to work on now, what we could defer, and essentially, him and his group have done a phenomenal job of getting that done and easing my anxiety,” Hamlin said. “Trust me, I’ll be the first one to call him or text him at 10 o’clock at night and ask for some kind of update. But he’s always got the right answer, it seems.”
Hamlin, also said that he had some anxiety when this all started this past summer but he couldn’t turn his full focus on this team yet since he had a championship he was personally competing for still. Now that the season is over and he can work on the business side of he and Michael Jordan’s team, his anxiety has gone way down and that’s a testament to Lauletta.
“I got a text actually from a couple of team guys who were at the shop at 10:40 last night,” he said continued. “(They were) waxing the floors, painting the walls. They’re just really working hard on making sure this team’s ready once that first car gets there.”
The team has gained full sponsorship for 2021 already. They announced five sponsors for the car for next season as Wallace noted that the pressure to succeed is even greater in the sense that money and sponsorship isn’t a factor he has to worry about. It’s done.
The car will be ready next month but for Lauletta, he’s now anxious that he doesn’t want to forget a step on the way towards February’s Daytona 500.
“The major buckets of things we need to address have either all been addressed or are in the process of being addressed,” Lauletta said. “But for me, personally, it’s that couple of things where at some point, I’m going to go, ‘Aw, heck, how did we forget that?’ and then we’re behind.
“The challenges when you start building a team on Oct. 1 is that the window of fixing things and adjusting things is so, so small. If you were able to have a few more weeks to work on everything, it would’ve been that much easier. But we’re dealing with what we have.”
The process couldn’t have gone better. The pressure is on. The ones that incorrectly blamed Wallace for the noose hanging incident, well it didn’t hurt him. He has five sponsors, FIVE, for 2021. NASCAR’s ratings didn’t dip, they went up too.
Wallace is going to be an iconic figure in the sport in 2021. Michael Jordan. Denny Hamlin. Famed number between them (No. 23). Fully funded race car. Toyota equipment. All the resources at his disposal. Fame is there already for Wallace. Now, it’s time to perform.
“No more excuses.”