“Just, you know, we as an organization have kind of let these guys down,” an emotional Hamlin told FOX Sports after the race. “I’m talking about Bubba and Kurt with so many mistakes that we’ve made on pit road and whatnot. Bubba got let down again on the last stop, but he was fast. I thought he was a little better than I was. We had to go back again three times today.
“But let’s talk about the positives. Just can’t thank Kurt enough. Jordan Brand’s first race. So jealous he gets to drive that car and then to have that thing so fast there. I’m just — yeah. I have never had certainly this kind of feeling even for a win for me much less when I did win, so it’s just different.”
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Hamlin added more context during his post-race media availability. He explained that 23XI Racing has to “fundamentally change” how the team is doing things so that there aren’t further issues. He explained that a winning pit stop is not quite as important as a solid one that keeps the drivers in a solid position.
Wallace Rebounded From 2 Separate Penalties
The final leaderboard is only partially representative of how strong the 23XI Racing cars were at Kansas. Kurt Busch won after a dominant performance where he led 116 laps while Bubba Wallace finished 10th overall, his first top-10 since the Daytona 500.
The driver of the No. 23 Toyota secured points in all three stages of the race, which will help him in the season standings. However, Wallace also ran inside the top five multiple times before penalties by his pit crew dropped him to the rear of the field.
The first penalty, which was for a crew member over the wall too soon, took place on the 83rd lap of the Cup Series race. Wallace had to drop to the rear of the field, but he was able to recover and secure more points at the end of Stage 2.
The second penalty took place on Lap 198 after a Chase Elliott spin brought out the caution flag. Wallace headed down pit road in the fifth position, but he had to drop to the rear once again. One of his crew members tossed the tire to the right instead of toward the pit road wall. This tire rolled out onto pit road, where several drivers hit it and launched it back over the roof of Wallace’s stock car.
Wallace was able to rebound from these issues at Kansas and secure a top-10 finish, which marked a major change from previous races. He showed speed all day long, and he put himself in a position to consistently secure points. Though he likely would have contended for another top-five finish if he hadn’t had to work his way through the field multiple times.
“We have to clean up our messes on pit lane and at least keep the 23 where it runs when they pit. Working hard at this frustrating issue,” 23XI Racing President Steve Lauletta tweeted after the Kansas race. He made this comment in response to a fan that said Wallace would be in the playoffs on points if not for his pit crew.
Hamlin Has Previously Addressed the Pit Crew Issues
The outcome of the AdventHealth 400 was favorable overall for Hamlin and 23XI Racing. Busch won while Wallace added a top-10 finish with stage points. However, the pit crew issues continued a month after Hamlin previously addressed them.
The driver-owner met with media members at Martinsville Speedway on April 9, a week after winning his first race of the year. He explained that the No. 23 and No. 45 teams were both in a two-week slump that they needed to end so they could get back into playoff contention.
“We’re trying to address all the issues that there is,” Hamlin said, quote courtesy of NASCAR Media. “The [No.] 23 car is, the pit crew’s not doing well. You know, I’m in a meeting with Joe Gibbs Racing, and I thank them for everything they do for me, and then we walk out of that meeting into another and I’m cussing them out because we’re just not doing a good enough job over there. So it’s just a very interesting thing that goes on, but that’s part of it.”