Toyota Racing – NCS Daytona Quotes – Bubba Wallace – 02.14.24

23XI Racing driver Bubba Wallace was made available to the media on Wednesday prior to the Daytona 500.

BUBBA WALLACE, No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota Camry XSE, 23XI Racing

How will you know how much you can push with the new car?

“Find out. Where is that graph, you mess around and you find out? (laughter) That’s what you have to figure out in the Duels. For me, you push in the areas when necessary, push down the straightaways and see, because our new body – I know Ford has a new body – so you just have to be mindful of what works and what doesn’t just to build your resume for Sunday. That is when the pay window opens. Excited. Excited about the opportunity, and excited for our chances tonight. We are shotgun on the field for qualifying, so hopefully there is a lot of hype and not a lot of letdown. Hopefully, we can get to the second round – I mean congrats to the 48 (Alex Bowman) team. I think they’ve got the pole already.”

What are your thoughts going into this season?

“I’m really good. The best I’ve felt mentally. Physically I feel about the same. I’m lazy. I’m a bum (laughter). I need to go and work out. My wife (Amanda) tells me that, and lose a couple of pounds, but mentally, I have more appreciation. I have the confidence, and the awareness of where I’m at in the sport and having just a new appreciation or a different appreciation, just a different mindset going into this year, racing for something totally different. I feel good about it. Get through these first two weeks – Daytona and Atlanta – they are just about survival, and then showcase that you can run up front and get pushed, and be a pusher and all of that. I think you really start at Vegas. Good mile-and-a-half for us. There is a reason that Jimmie (Johnson) jumped into a Toyota and made all of his schedule mile-and-a-halves. Toyota is really good at mile-and-a-halves.”

You say you’re in a better mental state. Where does that come from?

“You see Bootie’s (Bootie Barker, crew chief) bourbon collection? There you go, it helps out a lot (laughter). No, turning 30, celebrating my one year wedding anniversary, celebrating life, just having fun with life, letting the little stuff go, focus on the big stuff. I find myself watching 2014 Truck Series races back when you couldn’t tell that kid nothing. Just jump in a truck and go rip. Didn’t have any self-doubt in the world. Trying to bring that back, so I feel good.”

Is that easy to do?

“Heck no. You get to a Cup car and are quickly reminded of how hard this is. I remember jumping in the Truck here at Daytona and I remember I was taken back. ‘This place is massive!’ Every place you went to. Now, you get in a Cup car and it’s just another race. The (Daytona) 500 is one of the biggest spectacles in racing, but it’s just another race.”

How often do you watch previous Daytona 500s?

“Not very often. I probably pull it up Saturday night of last year’s or the year before, but we do a lot of debrief stuff, so we cover a lot of footage, a lot of highlight moments that are learnings for me in our weekly meetings before the races. So yeah, every race is totally different. I talked about this a little earlier, but if I finished second in five of my six attempts, then yeah we have something to figure out. I’m second, 40th, second, 30th, second, 50th. A little inconsistent, but we always find our way to the front and showing good pace on speedways. But we’re still a few moves away from getting that first Daytona 500 win, but I feel the most prepared I’ve ever been, but you never know. You could be out leading and get turned, that’s what happened to me last year. You never know what other person in the field is going to make the wrong move, so you have to be aware.”

When you watch film, do you see things you say you wish you did differently?

“Yeah, I don’t know. Last year, I came across the line fifth or sixth taking the white flag. (Kyle) Larson was stuck in the middle and I could’ve went down to him, but the 10 (Aric Almirola) turned the 67 (Travis Pastrana) right into Larson, which turned me. Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. It’s so hard until it’s too late.”

Going through the field on superspeedways, is that an exhilarating feeling?

“It’s fun. We passed more cars on the restarts than anyone else. Restarts are fun. It’s something when the momentum gets faster, you have to make split-second decisions. And, you don’t know if it’s the right decision until it’s too late, right? ‘I’m going this way. Ah, it worked out!’ Denny (Hamlin) may be the one who knows constantly if something’s going to work out as to where I have a little bit of question about it. ‘Hey, yeah, the media said that was a great move. Totally was! Had that calculated the whole time.’ You just turn left and hope it works.”

Does Denny Hamlin help you with superspeedway racing?

“I mean we look at what he’s (Denny Hamlin) been able to do and the resume he’s built. Him and I actually work really well on speedways together. He’s really good at keeping the lead. I need to be better at keeping the lead with him. But we both make the right decisions to get up to the front, and when we’re there, we work together really well. It’s a product of Denny (Hamlin) having a lot of laps. If you had your top three restrictor plate racers, I’d go with Denny, (Ryan) Blaney, Joey (Logano). I’d put myself top ten. I just need to finish these things and finish more towards the front. Yeah, it’s been fun to build a resume, have great people behind me at 23XI, building great race cars. You have to have that. You have to have the natural instinct to make the right decisions, but also the equipment and people to back you up.”

Are you more of a send it guy than a methodical thinking guy on superspeedway races?

“No, no. That’s Tyler Reddick. He’s a send it guy. I’m more of the methodical. It’s just when the momentum is so big at speedway races, you have no time to be methodical and trust your instincts.”

Were you the send it guy in 2014?

“It was. I was watching Texas and we were running the top, running the middle. Didn’t have any doubt about it. Trusted your instincts. At the same time, you were learning. If you stepped over the line and crashed, you’ve never been there. As to now, I’m going into your seventh year in Cup. Those aren’t the mistakes you’re allowed to make. And I’m setting the tone for myself, but it’s true. There’s guys who have been out there for a long time, winning a lot of races for a reason. They’re not out crashing cars 20 years in. It’s not in the notebook, it’s something you have to learn the hard way.

This would be the race to run up front if you had to choose, right?

“Um, I like Kansas. Kansas is pretty cool. But this one pays the best, so you’re right. The most attention, most everything, for sure.”

You alluded to the real racing begins at Las Vegas. What do you like about that track?

“The spring race has always been good to us. I don’t know, I think that’s the first one where you kind of – you go through California, well we’re not going to California anymore. But, you learn a lot that weekend. I don’t know, the mile and halves just work. The performance Toyota brings, the speed Toyota brings is solid. You just happen to be up at the front at the end and have to make it count. We’ll see what happens this go around.”

Where do you stand with moving the Clash?

“I’m good with not going back to California. Love the whole deal, love the state, but I think my Cup career was an average finish of 35th (in California). It could be close to that, like 34.9 or something like that. But it was nothing to brag about, so I’m good with California being off the schedule for a little bit, some time to refresh (laughter). Moving the Clash, I don’t know. I’ve always said wherever it is, and I have a ride, I’m going to show up – whether it’s here in Daytona, or in Mexico. I’m game for whatever. We’ve obviously been able to see we can create anything, like the LA Colosseum, we can do that anywhere else. So, keep it moving.”

Where would you like the Clash to go?

“Well, it’s so hard since you have to chase weather. You can’t go up north this time of the year since everything is frozen. I never got to the do the Clash when it was here in Daytona.”

Seems like you’re in a pretty good space right now. Do you think the results will follow?

“Fingers crossed (laughter)! I think going into last year, I think we finished that playoff run really strong. Thinking, ‘it’s going to happen again,’ and I was forcing it too much. You can’t just sit back and let it come to you, that’s not how the sport works, you need to go out and earn it. I think just having a different mindset – being aggressive, being confident. Self-confidence is what’s going to yield the results for us.”

Tyler Reddick said the team overachieved last year. Do you feel the same?

“That’s the bad thing about overachieving is that you set the new bar, so anything less than that is a failure. So, we know what we have to do. It’ll be fun.”

What’s the new goal for the team this year?

“Fifth and ninth. Simple answer. Can’t be sixth and tenth, then it’s just a lateral move. Lateral may be okay if we finish sixth and tenth again, but Denny (Hamlin) can be a stickler, so he probably wants at least fifth and ninth.”

How have Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin been in those offseason meetings this year?

“MJ (Michael Jordan) has been good, has been very supportive of the whole deal. Denny (Hamlin) has been super hands-on. We have a lot of data to look through, and a lot of smart people, a lot of new people, that are creating spreadsheets and coming up with fun graphs to look at. I didn’t go to school enough years to understand what I’m looking at. But it’s been fun learning all that stuff. It just shows the commitment Denny has that feeds down from MJ in giving us all the tools to go out and be successful. So, at the end of the day, they’re giving you the keys, so if you can’t figure it out, that’s on you.”

How is driving for those two?

“It’s competitive. Pushes you to be the best you can be. Denny (Hamlin) has won a lot of races, MJ (Michael Jordan) has won a lot of basketball games. It’s something that many can’t say they’re a part of, but I can, so it’s really cool.”

Have you noticed anything different about Ryan Blaney since he won the championship?

“We don’t even talk anymore. He’s big time. I have to call his assistant just to get a call with him (laughter). He’s out playing golf right now. But he’s good, he’s solid. He’s enjoying it. Proud of him”

What makes a good superspeedway racer?

“Decision making. Confidence. Awareness. Have to make all the right decisions.”

Is it something that can be learned or do you have to be good at those things naturally?

“Have to finish the races. I’ve given Tyler (Reddick) some grief, whatever you want to say, but he hasn’t really finished a speedway race. We go through all of this data, and you say ‘Hey, when we get to five laps to go, this needs to happen’ with a lot of what-ifs. Then I say, ‘What if you don’t make it to the end? So, let’s focus on finishing.’ Then, all of the data we have, you can learn from it. Before, I had a lot of speed, but I wouldn’t finish these speedway races, so we’d talk about things and I’d be like ‘I’ve never had that happen.’ Now, I’ve been able to experience it enough that I’m able to talk about something. But finishing is the most important thing, whether that’s 20th or that’s winning. Have to finish.”

What makes the Daytona 500 different from other superspeedway races?

“The hype around it. It’s always been the Great American Race. It pays the most. It’s our biggest race of the year and how we start it off. It always will be.”

How excited are you to see the Chicago Street Race again, hopefully unaffected by weather?

“I went over to Ben Kennedy’s the other night – I’ve been down here in Florida for about a month, so had some time to meet with leadership. But I told him, ‘I ain’t going to lie to you, I wanted that thing to fail so bad’ as obviously, I’m not a road course guy. But I got into it and loved every second of it. I was actually bummed it rained on Sunday. I was looking forward to the pre-race concerts, and walking from the hotel, and you’re right at the race track. The fan interaction was very cool. Those people had never seen a NASCAR race, of course you had your people who flew in, but a lot of people were new and were asking the right questions and were genuinely curious. I really enjoyed Chicago and happy to see it back on the schedule. Hopefully it doesn’t rain.”

How much did you learn about the city from that weekend?

“I learned how passionate they are about their culture. The city of Chicago is actually a lot of fun. Amanda (Wallace, wife) and I walked around, found some cool spots to eat at. Just the environment was really cool. I love going to Chicago, so it’s pretty cool.”

Toyota Racing PR