The Cup Series team announced the news on August 31 with a press release. According to the information provided, the reason is that the No. 45 Toyota is in the owner’s championship due to Kurt Busch’s win at Kansas Speedway. Putting Wallace in the entry provides the best opportunity for a deep run in the battle for the owner’s championship.
“After consulting with NASCAR, we made this decision in the best interest of the entire organization and for all our employees who helped earn a spot in the playoffs for the Owner’s Championship through their hard work,” said team president Steve Lauletta.
“While Ty has done a great job for us in the No. 45 car, we feel that Bubba’s experience in this car, at the upcoming playoff tracks, and his recent momentum will give 23XI the best chance at maximizing our points each weekend. We recognize that this is a unique opportunity in the Cup Series, and we’re grateful to our employees and partners for standing with the team and supporting this decision.”
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The Crew Chiefs Will Remain the Same
The number change provides the No. 45 with the best shot to contend for the owner’s championship. However, it will not bring about a change atop the pit boxes or to the primary partners for each car.
23XI Racing confirmed that Bootie Barker will still continue to work with Wallace while he drives the No. 45. They have been together since September 16 when 23XI Racing promoted Mike Wheeler to director of competition and made Barker the new crew chief for the No. 23 team.
Barker and Wallace have had their differences, which became a talking point after the trip to Nashville Superspeedway. They have also achieved success together. They celebrated a win at Talladega Superspeedway in 2021 and enjoyed a four-week stretch of top-10 and top-five finishes.
Gibbs will continue to work with Billy Scott as he serves as an injury replacement for Kurt Busch. Scott was named the crew chief of the No. 45 team ahead of the 2022 season, and he has remained in this capacity ever since while working with two separate drivers. The result has been nine top-10s (eight with Busch), five top-fives, and one trip to Victory Lane at Kansas Speedway.
This Move Remains Beneficial for Both Drivers
Why would 23XI Racing make this move? There are multiple reasons. First, Wallace has considerably more Cup Series experience than Gibbs, who will also have to focus on contending for an Xfinity Series championship. The grandson of Joe Gibbs will not have to worry about the added stress of the owner’s championship while pulling double-duty each week.
Another reason is that Wallace will have higher stakes each time that he suits up. He will be able to compete in a different form of the playoffs while trying to build upon the momentum of a career-best season.
Wallace will gain crucial playoff experience while suiting up for races where he has previous top-10 finishes. This includes Bristol Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, and Talladega Superspeedway.