On October 18, NASCAR announced a one-race suspension for Bubba Wallace for wrecking Kyle Larson. Now, 23XI Racing has revealed the driver that will replace him at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
According to an announcement from the team, John Hunter Nemechek will take over the No. 45 Columbia Sportswear Toyota Camry TRD. The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver will already be at the Florida track for the Camping World Truck Series Round of Eight cutoff race. He will just stick around and control the Cup Series car.
“23XI is aligned with NASCAR on the one-race suspension issued to Bubba, and we understand the need for the series to take a clear stand on the incidents that took place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway,” the statement said. “Bubba’s actions are not in keeping with the values of our teams and partners.
“We have spoken to Bubba and expressed our disapproval of how he handled the situation. Bubba has made impressive strides this season and this experience is an opportunity for him to further learn and grow as a competitor in NASCAR. As a result of the penalty, John Hunter Nemechek will drive the No. 45 Toyota this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.”
The Race Will Mark Nemechek’s Next Gen Debut
Nemechek has not made a start in the Cup Series since the 2020 season when he drove for Front Row Motorsports. He was the driver of the No. 38 Ford Mustang for his rookie season.
Nemechek finished 27th in points after starting all 36 races and posting three top-10 finishes. This includes a pair of eighth-place finishes at Talladega Superspeedway.
Nemechek will now make his first-ever start in the Next Gen Toyota Camry. He will have some time during practice to gain some experience, but he will still have to learn the ins and outs of the car during the actual race.
While Nemechek has no race experience in the Next Gen car, he actually has completed laps in it. He joined 23XI Racing for a test session at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and he spent the first day behind the wheel of the No. 23.
Nemechek completed 120 laps at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and he finished ninth on the speed charts. His best lap was at 164.419 mph, which put him right behind Spire Motorsports driver Corey LaJoie at 164.735.
Nemechek Was Originally the 23XI Racing Replacement Driver
Having Nemechek step in is fitting considering that he is a member of Toyota Racing and has some Cup Series experience. He also was the original fill-in driver for 23XI Racing.
Team co-owner Denny Hamlin dropped this nugget during an August 1 appearance on the “Door, Bumper, Clear” podcast. He explained that Nemechek was the original option to replace either Kurt Busch or Bubba Wallace. However, the situation changed after a wreck at Pocono Raceway.
“We didn’t know,” Hamlin said. “It was a complete clusterf***. We didn’t know what we were doing. We must have changed the plan three times the night before the race because we had protocols to put John Hunter in.
“We had planned for John Hunter in January. We had him fit in the car. We had his insert, how much he needs to be raised up, the pedals. We had all of our presets. Then as this happens, I talked to Joe [Gibbs], tell him what’s going on. Then, obviously, the ‘should we put Ty in the car’ question comes up.”
Hamlin continued and explained that they went back and forth with the crew at the track about a possible replacement for Busch. They ultimately went with Ty Gibbs, who has continued to start in place of the 2004 Cup Series champion.
Kathleen You are 100% correct. Clearly if anyone else had done what BUBBA did, they would be out for the season.
Nimacheck will do fine but Nascar is a joke in how they handled bubba. No penalty except a week? Should have been for the year, anger management, and a big fine over several of his actions. Funny it’s stiffer on others but not the golden boy who Nascar backs but nailed Larson a year ago. What about safety apparently bubba just walks on all counts. Hamlin and Jordon must be overjoyed while bubba takes a brief vacation. Sick of Nascar’s double standards. He took out 3 cars then got pissed off and gets a slap on the hand. Has been getting away with this since Covid started, poor little bubba.