Bubba Wallace took a big step forward on Sunday, finishing fifth at the NASCAR Cup Series Race at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. It was just Wallace’s fourth top-five finish of his NASCAR career, and the first for the new 23XI Racing, the team owned by NBA great Michael Jordan.
Wallace is looking to really take off this year, after garnering plenty of attention in 2020, both on and off the track. Jordan and partner Denny Hamlin targeted Wallace to be the face of their team.
“I think he presents a great opportunity. Not just as an African-American, but in terms of talent,” Jordan said earlier this year, on choosing Wallace. “He’s someone who aspires to be good. All you have to do is support him.”
The success at Pocono Raceway kicks things up another gear. Bubba Wallace says that Jordan was “ecstatic and pumped up” about the race, but now expects Top 10 finishes to become the norm for 23XI Racing.
.@BubbaWallace said Michael Jordan and 23XI investor Curtis Polk were "ecstatic and pumped up" after the team's first Top 5 finish yesterday, and that Jordan sent him "a very nice text, and now he expects a Top 10 every week, so now we have to put our foot down and keep digging." pic.twitter.com/k92UZSzZuf
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) June 28, 2021
Bubba Wallace hasn’t had that kind of consistency through his career to this point, but things are trending upwards, beyond just this race. After finishing without a top-15 finish through the first 12 events of his season, Wallace has five such finishes in the last seven, dating back to an 11th place effort at Dover International Speedway on May 16.
This weekend, Wallace will race in Wisconsin at the Jockey Made in America 250, looking to keep the momentum going. He hasn’t had back-to-back top 10 finishes in his NASCAR Cup Series career, so there is plenty to accomplish for the 27-year old driving the No. 23 Toyota.