Bubba Wallace’s Lackluster NASCAR Road Course Career Sparks Entry in Sportscar Race
Bubba Wallace has no illusions about his struggles on NASCAR road courses. But the 23XI Racing driver is taking active steps to improve his fortunes on non-oval tracks.
Wallace competed alongside Cory Heim and John Hunter Nemechek, two fellow NASCAR drivers, at the BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona Jan. 26. The four-hour race serves as a support race for the Rolex 24 of Daytona. Wallace said during media availability ahead of the race he spearheaded the effort that brought about the Smooge Racing No. 23 Toyota GR Supra GT4 EVO entry.
“I texted Toyota leadership and said I needed some massive help for my road course career in the Cup Series,” Wallace said. “Whatever it takes to get more seat time, whatever we have to do.”
Wallace opened the endurance race behind the wheel. The team suffered an apparent front right wheel issue at about the 45-minute mark, causing Wallace to have an “off” in the infield. After going behind the wall, the Supra was repaired and fought back to a 19th place finish in the GS Class out of 28 entries.
Piloting the Supra GT4 car might not directly translate to Wallace’s Cup Series racing this year, but as he suggested, any road course seat time is appreciated.
Wallace has posted just two top-10 finishes in 26 Cup Series road course races since 2018. He placed fifth at the Indianapolis Road Course, his only road course top-five, in 2022, and was seventh at the 2022 Charlotte Roval event. He’s been mostly mired in the mid-pack aside from those finishes. Wallace’s average finish on road course races was 23rd in 2023. His best finish was 12th at the Indy Road Course.
Wallace earned his first NASCAR Playoff berth last season, but in hindsight, his road course finishes nearly caused him to miss out. He clinched the final spot for the playoffs, his first berth, based on points (Wallace’s two wins in the Cup Series have both occurred during the playoffs).
Wallace’s prowess on road courses remains a notable concern entering this season. The 2024 schedule includes five road course races despite the Indianapolis race returning to the oval.
Improved road course finishes can also supplement Wallace’s rise. Though he did not win in 2023, his season was perhaps his best to date overall. He captured five top-fives and 10 top-10 finishes in addition to his playoff berth. Wallace advanced to the Round of 12. He captured the pole for the Texas Round of 12 race and led 111 laps but was passed by eventual winner William Byron on a late restart.