Bubba Wallace wanted big things from the Daytona 500. But his day, so far, is about as unsettled as the Florida weather.
After only three laps around the Daytona track Sunday, Wallace needed a pit stop because of a minor crash with Derrike Cope. The crash damaged a tire and his right fender. The damage to Cope’s car was too severe for him to continue the race.
Bubba Wallace returned to the race, but in 20th place. A dozen laps later, another wreck involved 16 drivers. Ryan Newman was among those who crashed. He won Daytona 500 in 2008.
Then, lightning struck, putting the race in a weather delay.
Bubba Wallace, New Team Were Hot Daytona Topics
Bubba Wallace is a huge topic in NASCAR this year. He changed teams at the end of last season, going from driving for Richard Petty Motorsports to a team owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan and NASCAR great Denny Hamlin. The new team is 23XI racing. Wallace switched from the No. 43 car to No. 23, the number worn by Michael Jordan when he played for the Chicago Bulls. The No. 11 in the team name is a nod to Hamlin’s long-time number.
Jordan is an avid NASCAR fan. He even described his late father as a “gear head.” Jordan said he met Hamlin 11 years ago. The two created the team last fall and signed Bubba Wallace.
Michael Strahan interviewed Bubba Wallace, along with Jordan and Hamlin, as part of Fox Sports pre-race show. NASCAR’s official kickoff is the Daytona 500. While Jordan and Hamlin knew each other, Jordan couldn’t say the same about Wallace.
“When this (team) was presented to me, I felt good about it,” Jordan told Fox Sports. “When Bubba was involved in the whole conversation, I felt good about it.”
Bubba Wallace said his phone blew up with messages after the announcement of 23XI Racing.
“I probably got 60-75 text messages after we announced that night,” Bubba Wallace said. “I get one and read the message and at the bottom it says MJ… That’s cool, I’m texting Michael Jordan.”
Wallace Did Well In Daytona Practices
Bubba Wallace had the fastest practice lap, Wednesday, to prep for Daytona. He started sixth in the grid for Sunday’s race.
Plus, Toyota, in support of Wallace, premiered a new ad in his honor. Toyota Racing tweeted:
“Along the way you will face challenges…no matter what, stand tall and keep pushing…Keep dreaming.”
Want to read more Outsider coverage on Bubba Wallace and NASCAR? Here’s a story with more of Wallace’s Daytona thoughts.