Denny Hamlin Has Strong Words on Bubba Wallace After Playoff Win

23XI Racing

Getty 23XI Racing celebrates a win at Kansas Speedway.

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace won his second career NASCAR Cup Series race on September 11. This performance, as Denny Hamlin explained, showcased his improvements as a driver and his ability to battle back after mishaps.

Hamlin, Wallace, and crew chief Bootie Barker met with media members after celebrating the organization’s third career win. Hamlin explained during the session that many of the teams dealt with setbacks, especially on pit road. He noted that Wallace was better at rebounding from these issues than many other drivers, which was a sign of his improvement.

“I think a lot of people had a lot of issues on pit road,” Hamlin said. “Certainly, we were one of many. But I saw [Bubba] in the back of the pack just like we were, and he was able to get through the traffic faster than I was. And so that’s the pivotal point of the race where I think that he’s really improved in the sense of that.

“Typically, when that happens — no offense to Bubba — sometimes the wires get crossed. And so today, it just seemed like he was very methodical on his way back. And this is overcoming adversity. Everyone has something that happens in local races that takes him off of schedule. And today was a great moment for that team to battle back from the back and get to the win.”

Wallace Was Not Going To Receive Any Favors

Denny Hamlin

GettyDenny Hamlin (right) had every intention of passing Wallace for the win.

23XI Racing is only in its second year as an organization, and yet the team has three total wins. Wallace has two while Kurt Busch has one. This is something that Hamlin expected to happen when he and Michael Jordan founded the team, but it occurred fairly rapidly.

This win played out in a fascinating way considering that Hamlin pushed his car to the limit trying to chase down Wallace. He had faster lap times, but he wasn’t able to fully navigate through traffic as well as the driver of the No. 45. Hamlin also clarified that he was not pushing to help Wallace get his first win of the season. He had every intention of passing the No. 45 and taking his own car to Victory Lane.

“Like I said in my interview post-race, there’s no way that Bubba ever expects me to give him anything,” Hamlin said. “He doesn’t. He wants to know that he went out here and earned the win today. And it was not given to him. My lap times those last 20 laps prove that I was giving it every single bit that I had, but he just out-executed us, out track positioned us and our cars today.”

This Win Was Crucial for the Organization

Bubba Wallace

GettyBubba Wallace does a burnout at Kansas Speedway.

Wallace is not one of the drivers eligible to compete for the Bill France Cup. He did not make the 16-driver playoff field. However, this win was very important for 23XI Racing considering that it counts in a different championship battle.

The No. 45 is currently in the owners’ championship due to Busch’s win at Kansas Speedway back in May. Wallace is currently in control of this entry, and he is trying to stack as many points as possible. He secured a top-10 finish at Darlington Raceway to kick off the playoffs and then he won at Kansas Speedway.

Wallace was the first driver in the owners’ championship to win a race, so he was the first to move on to the Round of 12. The No. 45 is technically fifth in points and only one behind the No. 22 of Team Penske. However, it has the advantage heading toward Bristol Motor Speedway based on the win.

“I remember the conversation that Denny pulled me aside down in Florida, and he goes, ‘Hey, we want you to drive the 45 and compete for a championship. We believe in you,'” Wallace said during his post-race conference. “‘Continue to do what we do.’ I didn’t walk away from that being, like, ‘Oh, man, we got to ramp it up here.’ We’ve been stellar. We’ve been really, really good.”

“It’s only a matter of time and the little bit of things that we needed to clean up, and here we are today. We executed today. Still wasn’t a perfect day, but we were able to execute and bounce back and make the most of it.”

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