Bubba Wallace hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire recently, and despite his win last year, he didn’t either. How long is his leash at 23XI Racing to remain in that ride? – Florence P., Oxford, Miss.
Conventional wisdom and the way the sponsorship/NASCAR climate has gone in recent years suggests that Bubba Wallace‘s leash is as long as his sponsors’ wallet is. And it seems like it’s getting longer by the week.
But from a performance standpoint, Wallace is in need of an uptick. Since his runner-up in the season-opening Daytona 500, he’s yet to finish inside the top 10 and has only done so inside the top 15 once.
Sure, the last lap crash at Atlanta Motor Speedway wasn’t indicative of his speed, but the other eight events didn’t have that much to tell besides the lack of pace in the No. 23.
Understanding that 23XI Racing is still a young team that still is going through some growing pains, progress week to week needs to be made. Kurt Busch has come out and scored a pair of top fives and four top 10s already, while Wallace remains a step behind.
Losing Bootie Barker for a handful of races post-Circuit of the Americas isn’t helping the team any, but excuses can only go so far. Denny Hamlin has high expectations for Wallace, and so does Michael Jordan. They can only wait so long until they either run out of excuses, racecars (supply chain issues are still raging, people) or patience.
Bubba Wallace is a race-winning driver at the Cup Series level. And the series is heading to the site of said victory, Talladega Superspeedway, this weekend. But until he shows marked improvement on multiple track types, even those dreaded road courses he’s publicly despised, the spotlight will continue to remain on the No. 23’s on-track performance.
Kevin Harvick’s winless streak is at 52 races. Will he ever win another Cup race? – Marty F., Miami
A few months ago, I’d dismiss this question as malarkey. Kevin Harvick is too good to not win just once more again in his Cup career.
But given the increased parity in the series, it shouldn’t be dismissed as quickly anymore.
I still firmly believe Harvick will win at least one more race before he hangs it up. Stewart-Haas Racing isn’t the top team it was in 2014 and 2015, but it’s still a force to be reckoned with on a weekly basis (see: Chase Briscoe‘s win at Phoenix Raceway and Cole Custer‘s pole at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt track).
Some may say Harvick isn’t what he once was. Father Time is undefeated, yes, but I think this is a case where the equipment Harvick is driving isn’t up to his usual standard. The man finished second at Richmond Raceway (helped by strategy, sure) but also should have won Bristol last year and has carried the banner at a struggling organization for the better part of two calendar years.
Adjusting to the Next Gen car is obviously a big part of this discussion, personally from a driving style perspective and organizationally from a data acquisition and implementation perspective.
Are veterans at a disadvantage and are younger drivers in a better position to succeed with the Next Gen car? @KevinHarvick weighs in.
💭 "You have to be able to just sling it. Just send it […] there's just a lot of things to think about."
— Davey Segal (@DaveyCenter) April 7, 2022
But statistics and data aside, Kevin Harvick is a first ballot Hall of Famer, and I can’t imagine a scenario where he doesn’t win again.
I know, I know, we said the same exact thing about Jimmie Johnson and look how his career ended, right?
Fool me once, shame on you. My gut tells me I won’t be fooled twice, though. Harvick has the rest of this year and all of next to get it done.
And if he doesn’t, well … guess I’m the fool.
About the author
Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.