August 12, 2022

Kurt Busch says he understands teammate Bubba Wallace’s frustrations after more pit road trouble for the No. 23 team last weekend, and that “I have my arm around him.”

Pit crew issues plagued Wallace during Sunday’s Cup race at Nashville Superspeedway, prompting a terse radio exchange with crew chief Bootie Barker.

Wallace had the fastest car in practice, but the car got out of shape in qualifying and he started 30th. He worked his way up to seventh place at the end of the first stage.

In the second stage, he had a loose wheel. When told to stop, he was hit from behind by another car. By the time Wallace returned to pit road and the issue was resolved, he was one lap down.

Shortly after returning to the track, Wallace unleashed his frustration on the radio.

“Everything is fine right now,” Barker told the radio. “Obviously we are one lap behind. I apologize for that.”

Wallace replied, “Leave it to me… alone, man. Don’t talk to me the whole… the whole race.

Barker said: “I am, and we are not out of it. Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll be fine. I know you’re pissed off and you deserve to be.

The exchange came a day after Wallace told reporters he needed to do a better job of having the right mindset for challenges.

“It gets frustrating at times,” Wallace said. “You get run over or you have a bad save, or I’m going to hit the fence somewhere. It sets you back.

Busch understands Wallace’s frustrations, having had similar outbursts on radio earlier in his career. One of the reasons Busch was brought to 23XI Racing was to provide a veteran presence for Wallace.

“I’m like, ‘Hey, man, I’ve been here,” Busch told reporters Tuesday of his message to Wallace. ” ‘I’m here with you. I am a runner. I am passionate. We just have to get to that next level of professionalism.

“I made those mistakes, and he makes those mistakes and yet it’s always about relying on all the elements and all the people within the team.

“So yes, I am involved. But Bootie Barker is the leader of this 23 car. You know, we have Denny (Hamlin) as our team owner and (Michael Jordan).

“Everyone is wondering about the real central question. And that’s the consistency on pit stops with car 23. So Bubba is right, but we just have to fix that. And we have to handle it the right way.

Pit crew issues have been seen in most Toyota teams. Joe Gibbs Racing provides pit crews for 23XI Racing. Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson has been critical of the team’s performance in the pits, telling NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan last week: “In every area other than the (Kyle Busch) team, our running in the pit lane was all over the place. It is sometimes embarrassing. »

Busch said the help he gives Wallace is the help he received earlier in his career.

“Early in my career, I would have liked to understand more of Mark Martin,” Busch said of his former Roush Racing teammate. “He was always there to help. When I asked questions, and when he gave advice, it was sincere.

“That’s what I discovered thanks to my team leaders. It is always the team leader who is going to give you the most authentic leadership response. And so that’s what Bubba has to do. That’s what we all need to do is just go around the crew chiefs here, as well as JGR, and rely on their level of experience to help build this whole Toyota group together.

Wallace’s frustration is understandable. Nashville was no fluke in disappointing results.


Wallace had a strong car at Kansas last month, but two pit road penalties kept him from finishing better than 10th. After the race, he told NBC Sports: “The pit crew sucks.”

Barker had a four-stroke suspension after a wheel came off Wallace’s car at Circuit of the Americas.

Wallace had to return to pit road at Talladega due to a loose wheel.

But there were other problems as well. Wallace finished last at Sonoma when his engine failed after nine laps. It was collected during two incidents at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Wallace was kicked out of the Coca-Cola 600 because his team misunderstood police requirements for damaged vehicles after sustaining minor damage in an incident.

It’s just such bad luck for that 23 car,” Busch said after his second-place finish Sunday at Nashville of Wallace. “I haven’t seen anything like it.”