Race Weekend Central

2-Headed Monster: Does a Personnel Change Need to Happen at 23XI Racing?

Has there been a team in recent memory to have more pressure on them in their first season than 23XI Racing? With high profile team owners like NASCAR superstar Denny Hamlin and all-time NBA great Michael Jordan, the pressure to win is high for all involved with 23XI Racing.

So far in 2021, the team has not gotten off to the start many folks expected them to. Driver Bubba Wallace currently sits 20th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings and is coming off a disappointing 26th-place finish at Richmond Raceway last weekend. The team has yet to record a top-15 finish and outside of the Daytona 500 has yet to really threaten for a victory.

That has led us to debate. Does a personnel change need to happen at 23XI Racing for the team’s performance to pick up and be a contender for race wins? Luken Glover and Clayton Caldwell debate whether it’s too soon for a major shakeup at 23XI Racing.

23XI is Experiencing Growing Pains

As mentioned, this is one of the most pressure-packed scenarios a new team has ever faced in NASCAR. A billionaire star basketball player has entered the waters of motorsports. A Cup veteran is finding his post-driving role. And a driver who has found himself in the spotlight numerous times over the past year is trying to prove his worth.

Most people likely expected 23XI to not hit home runs in the first few weeks. Top 20s and solid running position were key factors in getting this team afloat. But now we are a quarter into the 2021 season and there has been little noticeable progress. Automatically, that is going to raise questions. This team needs to be hitting singles and doubles, and so far it hasn’t really happened.

The first reason I don’t believe it is time to panic yet is because of team chemistry. Any transition in NASCAR, whether veteran or rookie, is going to take some time and effort to mesh. In this case, a group of employees were all thrown together and expected to communicate. It takes time for teams to gel. Just look at the No. 48 team at Hendrick Motorsports. There has been a lot of movement within that sole program and it has taken time for results to produce. The driver, crew chief, pit crew and shop crew all need to communicate in order to progress. That will come with time.

Now let’s take a look at a similar situation to compare it to. Take a look at Leavine Family Racing in 2019. No, LFR was not a new team and didn’t have a raw group of guys working together. It balances out, however, in that they did not have as much funding as 23XI and not as strong of a JGR alliance.

Matt DiBenedetto did not get his first top-15 finish until the eighth race of the season at Bristol. It was another five races before he got another one. In the first half of the season, DiBenedetto had four top 15s. In the second half, he increased that number to 10 top 15s, including that infamous near-win at Bristol. 23XI has more resources and a stronger JGR alliance to find these results quickly. It all comes down to the adaptation of the driver.

COVID-19 protocols also have to go into account. Team meetings have not been able to take place at a frequent pace as usual. There are only eight events with practice and qualifying this season. The lack of communication, especially for a brand new team, can cause a hindrance.

There have been bright spots in 2021 so far. Wallace had one of the fastest cars in his Duel race, and that translated over to the Daytona 500. At Phoenix, Wallace actually raced into the top 10 late in the race before a questionable pit strategy call relegated him to 16th. And at the Bristol Dirt Race, the No. 23 was on track to record a solid top-10 effort before late-race contact spoiled those plans.

At Martinsville, pit strategy allowed Wallace to lead a career-best 23 laps.

Those are races to build off of, now it’s time to get more consistent and finish races.

With all this being said, if we are still asking this question as the playoffs near, there should be a cause for concern. Realistically, it was very questionable whether 23XI could find victory lane this season. Even the second season may be a struggle. This team could very be suited more for the upcoming Next Gen car. However, it has been no secret how much promotion Wallace and 23XI have gotten on TV and in the news. There is only so much you can do off the track before results become the only focus. In the end, NASCAR is about racing and if results aren’t coming in, reason for concern is even more legitimate. 23XI has gotten big sponsors for their new venture. These teams are committed to Wallace, Hamlin and Jordan, but that trust has to grow. Other drivers are dying to get the same promotion that 23XI has received, and some are exceeding results.

It is not near time to hit the panic button on this team. Growing is a part of NASCAR, and it is especially true in this day and age. – Luken Glover

Not Just an Ordinary Race Team

The 23XI Racing team has gotten off to a rough start in 2021 and while the team is in their first season as an organization, I believe a change needs to be made.

This isn’t just your ordinary run of the mill organization. Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player in the history of the NBA (yeah, I said it), is co-owner of the team.

Jordan has been very vocal about his expectations for the organization. He made it clear that he wants to win and he did not become an owner in NASCAR to be a loser. While they haven’t gotten off to a dreadful start, it is clear that they lack the speed of a true championship contender. Certainly, MJ expected better.

Bubba Wallace currently sits 20th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings. The best finish for the No. 23 Toyota this season has been 16th, which they have accomplished three times at Phoenix, Atlanta and Martinsville. The 20th-place points position doesn’t look as bad as the results have been and that’s because of the team’s performance in the first week of the season.

Wallace’s finish in the Bluegreen Vacations Duel at Daytona gave him nine points. The Duels pay points to the top-10 finishers and Wallace finished runner-up in his race.

The No. 23 team has compiled just eight stage points in the eight races since the Daytona 500 and all of them came at Bristol. Daytona is Daytona and the success the team had there has not carried over to the rest of the season. Wallace’s average finish so far is 21.6, a half position lower than his average finish at Richard Petty Motorsports a year ago. RPM is a solo-car operation with limited funding. The team needs to be way better than that.

I know what you are going to say – they’re a new team and with every new team there will be some growing pains. I get it, but they’re not the only new team in 2021. With the resources the team has and the expectations set for this team, they should be the best new team in 2021. So far, that title belongs to Trackhouse Racing.

Trackhouse Racing has shown a ton of speed in 2021 and has two top-15 finishes, two more than 23XI Racing. They’ve also shown some consistent speed throughout the year. Trackhouse has an alliance with Richard Childress Racing. It’s not the same as having an alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, which 23XI has. The alliance 23XI has is supposed to be similar to the relationship Furniture Row Racing had with the JGR a few years back.

Furniture Row Racing was a championship contender before the team closed its doors. So far 23XI has not picked up anywhere near where Furniture Row Racing left off.

The No. 23 car is 23rd in points earned since Daytona with 127 points. That’s nearly 30 points lower than what Trackhouse Racing and Daniel Suarez have earned since Daytona. Wallace’s former team, Richard Petty Motorsports with driver Erik Jones have earned more points since Daytona. As has Tyler Reddick and Michael McDowell. The 23XI team are only slightly ahead of Cole Custer and Aric Almirola in points since Daytona and both of those drivers have had miserable seasons so far.

That’s where the problem lies for me. If the organization had some speed through the first nine races and were just unlucky I would feel differently. That’s why I think a change in personnel needs to be made.

Joe Gibbs Racing, the team where 23XI gets a lot of their information from, has had a lot of speed so far in 2021. Christopher Bell has a win and Martin Truex Jr. has two victories. Denny Hamlin has been far and away the most consistent driver on the circuit and leads the points by a healthy margin. Kyle Busch has five top-10 finishes this season. That would mean to me that the equipment 23XI is getting from JGR is winnable equipment and it should provide 23XI with all the resources they need to be successful.

The eight races after Daytona have been a major disappointment. That’s why I think the team would benefit from a crew chief change or some other change in key personnel on the team. Think of the expectations to start the 2021 season and ask if they have come close to those. It is clear they have not. – Clayton Caldwell

About the author

Clayton has been writing NASCAR for the last seven years and has followed the sport for as long as he can remember. He's a Jersey boy with dreams of hoping one day to take his style south and adding a different kind of perspective to auto racing.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

It is far too early to play musical chairs, especially for a 1st year team.

But the concern is 100% there and possibly some growing doubt as 23XI watches the smaller and less funded Trackhouse team pass them every week.


The personnel change needed is a new driver! Easy fix. This driver is more worried about finding racism in everything he does than driving the car.

Mark Govna

I hate to say it but I think it’s the driver. He is definitely a good short track racer. Aside of that he hasn’t really proven himself in NASCAR at the cup level, it leads me to believe that maybe he’s a little too high up and came through the ranks too quick. I say put him back in a truck because that’s when he did well. Some guys are just not cut out for cup level.


it’s still a first year team. i think expectations were too high by jordan. be interesting to see how that team does at ‘dega this weekend. hopefully the focus will be on racing and performance instead of the political climate.


And this is why the ratings have declined and the seats are torn out of the tracks. A continuation of stupidity. Nascar has pushed me out as a fan, but I still read headlines. You nailed it, a slap in JJC’s face. I think all the drivers should show solidarity and sit this race out in support of her and discrimination.


Sounds like Danica two point oh oh. The car needs a better driver. Bubba’s not as good as he thinks he is. He can burn his NA$CAR Hall of Fame speech now.

David Russell Edwards

The days of driver ability being the most important factor are long gone. I expect that the ownership group know both his assets and liabilities. and chose him.
Does anybody think that a first year team would, short of a miracle be really doing much better, consistently at least.
As for Danica 2.0, I think you are correct. But I suspect it will be the same for years to come. Not just for Bubba but anyone who breaks the mold.

Dave Pinaglia

Amen to that ?


Team 23X1 took a driver with 20th place talent, invested hundreds of millions of dollars in him, and Presto! Chango! They are in 20th place. They may climb a little from here over time, but the driving talent just isn’t there to improve much. On the other hand, put Hamlin in the drivers seat and he could win with all else being the same.


I agree that putting another driver with better qualifications in #23 car could be in the driver’s seat. Wallace might need some time in Xfinity series to get him back to Cup caliber.


Its kind of comical to watch the same media that hyped this team up to no end last year due to who the driver was, despite the fact that its a first year team. Now they can’t understand why they aren’t doing so well and is looking for solutions.


I agree with you, they showed what kind if equipment Bubba was getting and he has yet to finish in the top 10 and it seems that in order for that to happen, the top 15 cars would have to drop out. Sad but true. Denny needs to show him how to win races. Give it 2 years and Bubba will be replaced.


Michael Jordan is, almost not debatable, the greatest basketball player ever. Anyone checked how he has done as a part-owner (Wizzards) and owner (Hornets). Barely .500.
It is not a personnel problem.
Expectations were too high to begin, and it’s not driving, engineering, administration, car. It is tough to win at the Cup level.
Jordan, the quotes were, “he follows racing. Went with his dad to the tracks around Wilmington, ” and yes, he was parked near me a couple times at Charlotte. He is not magic. Denny Hamlin, his mildly autistic co owner, has not demonstrated he is a crafty owner, and Gibbs has enough going on to build the new cars and put Kyle Bush in the winner’s circle.
Time, patience and perseverance will accomplish all things

Steve Cos

Furniture Row Racing had massive growing pains. For years they ran as back markers. Yes once they had the alliance with JGR they became contenders but it didn’t happen overnight. Nor did it happen for HMS or JGR. It took years of building the foundation and getting the right driver. To say changes are necessary 9 races in……is just plain silly.

Bill B

Can you name a first year team with a winless driver that’s done better? I can’t.
So why should you expect more? Just because MJ is involved, funding is in place and they are running JGR cars, doesn’t guarantee success at this level. I thought the expectations from some media member, who should know better, was ridiculous.
Actually, I think the team is doing well for a first year team with a winless driver.

Marlyn Edward Clemens

I do believe Alan kulwicki who was killed and only ran two seasons and he did win the title one season he was a man of great future he himself was an engineer


The best thing they could do is replace their loud mouth driver. There are plenty of young drivers way better than the one they have.

Ron M

Ah. Richard Petty Motorsport replaced him with a driver who has won before in the series, so how is he doing in that ride?

Mr. Republican

I agree?% that no confederate flag bubba is not a good driver and it wouldn’t matter who owns the car he drives he will never be a champion caliber driver

David Davis

I think 23xi choose the wrong driver MJ only choose Wallace because he wanted to help a black man in the sport please understand I’m not prejudice of blacks and I like Bubba but he isn’t a Petty or even a Hamlin he’s Bubba and needs to do this on his own without all the pressure money doesn’t give a driver anymore talent or experience only more of a budget give him time to improve


at least bubba seems to have decent car control and not be a danger to every other driver like danica was in irl and nascar. not sure he has the winning drive or mentality needed in this series though…

David Edwards

So if Bubba is a winless hack who would you prefer they hired?
All the winning Cup drivers are under contract, so you take a chance on either a winless Cup driver or an Xfinity driver whose record is no better than Bubba’s.
Just curious. Be interesting to see what your thoughts are.


Just pick about any top 10 xfinity driver Bubba is a way over rated driver! He saw opportunity to jump on political bandwagon to carry him to being mentioned with Nascar best names and he doesn’t deserve it, he is at best a 2nd rate driver if even that!


Bubble wallace couldn’t win of he was the only car on the track All he good at is running his mouth fire him and get a real driver

William T Jones

Yes James


Who would you put in the seat?

David Russell Edwards

I dont know of an estatblished stock car driver thats available. So short answer is I dont know.

William T Jones

Have u ever considered it could be the driver , not the crew chief , not the pit crew , not the money man but the DRIVER BUBBA WALLACE



Chuck Balius

Yes it is quite evident there is a need for personnel changes starting with the driver. He has proven himself to be just an average driver for the past 5 years with an average 22.9 place in the past 121 races.


Waste of a car team IMO. If Bubba couldn’t win at RPM of all teams what made MJ and Denny think it would make a difference? Unless you drive for one of 4 teams Hendrick, Penske, JGR or SHR good luck seeing a top 10!

Ted Lulis

Affirmative action will only get you so far

Goose Dotson

In the end stats talk numbers talk… No one questions tom brady bout championships or jimmie johnson for that matter, in the end the stats speak for themselves, bubba has raw talent and the equipment to put the car in the top 15 or even 10 every week, I do not believe he has the edge to do it, and we all know that is what it takes, an edge to drive it in there and TAKE IT…. that edge of your seat pulling your hair out wreck it or win it edge…. “If you ain’t first your last”

david s magistrale

The publicity stunt of putting a cut rate wanna b in a top tier ride is a joke. All he is ,is an attention getter. Bozo the clown would have been a better choice rather than a con artist


Couldn’t agree more!

Richard Harris

Bubba put pressure on him self by making NASCAR political. I still am a NASCAR fan but if they choose to go down the road and make it all about race and politics I’m done. Let it be about racing and honoring the sport.

Martin Frey

Darrell Wallace is out of his league. He should shut his mouth and learn to drive.

G. W.

To much hype to early on this team . Toyota even jumped on the Bubba wagon with a commercial with the little girl and a go cart ! Let’s face it you can throw all the money at it you wan to , but you still have a mediocre driver !! Better off with bringing a young gun up from Xfinity!!!


If that ever want to win thay need a DRIVER not a political statement


Love having a New Team in Nascar!!!
Love MJ and the Bulls back in the day
He is the greatest all time…no doubts..
NBA to political now…I never watch anymore…
Love DH-11 and JGR…but
2-Time Kyle Busch-18 is my driver!!!
But listen bubba is not Cup Talent…
He may win a SuperSpeedway once or twice and that’s gonna be about it…reminds me of Danica…he may be slightly better but that’s not good enough still…but sponsorship and money pays the bills so bubba rides on…2-3 yrs and it will be over…and who really cares as long as we have Nascar Racing…
Sponsorship keeps Nascar afloat and I’m hoping the Politicals stays far away…
Drivers come Drivers go…
Support the Sponsors that support Nascar!!!

Steve lewis

Because wallace is black nascar caved in on calling him bubba instead of Darrell. Most of the drivers use there real first name. Not Wallace though. Also the moose thing was bull. Taking the confederate flag away took history away. That was the south’s battle flag. NASCAR let Wallace put black lives matter on prettys car also. What a disgrace. I’ve follow nascar since the 60’s but they can kiss my ass goodbye and with a lot more fans also. The blacks want and get everything. Most have to earn it.

Edward Vasquez


Terry Dickinson

Bubba is a joke. Fire his butt.

Charlie Harper

Really getting tired of ALL THE BUBBA FOCUS…..Hamlin and Jordan got on the whole publicity of BLM…THE NOOSE IN THE GARAGE….etc if they were looking for the next Jimmy Johnston they sure the fuck aren’t gonna find it in Bubba Wallace all they’ve got is a male version of Danica Patrick….it’s everybody else’s fault….as far as Hamlin he’s a fuckin whiner and from what I’ve read Jordan is an asshole to work for being labeled the greatest basketball player does mean your qualifiedto run or be an expert in running
NASCAR team.. …I highly doubt this team will be around in 5 years unless they run a 2nd car and Hamlin moves over from Gibbs….

Gerald Eaton

Exactly right. Wallace is a non-achiever. His big mouth has cost NASCAR dearly. Jordan should offer the other teams a bonus to let Wallace win. Then he could go back to finishing 20th which is more attuned to his talent or lack of.


He’ll never win in a cup car !! O wait that’s RACIST!! He’s a POS!


Much like Danica Patrick, Bubba Wallace is one of the most overrated driver’s in the Cup Series. He was great in the truck series, where the competition isn’t as good. He wasn’t very good in Xfinity and was moved to Cup to soon, and for one reason. I think we all know why.


Jordan just needs 2 minor changes:
1. Stop paying a loser.
2. Happless can’t win a championship, why does he think he can run a championship team especially picking a driver for one.

Craig Hill

Team has money and names behind the team. Perhaps they would do better with a driver.


Shut it down before wallaces non-driving ass bankrupts you


Again Wallace gets a high teen finish of 18th at his home state. His car looked plenty fast and he led some laps do to pit stops and crashes. He just can’t hang with the big guys. Hamlin and jordon might consider getting someone like Jen burton or even a two team truck team owner like Jennifer-jo- Cobb. Wallace needs to go back to the truck series where he’s won a few. He’s not cup material.


They’d have a better chance of winning if they let JORDAN drive AT LEAST HE KNOWS HOW TO WIN

Share via