Hamlin chasing NASCAR driver title, owner’s championship

KANSAS CITY, Kansas (AP) – Driver Denny Hamlin finds himself in the most enviable position ahead of Saturday night’s race in Bristol, as he finished second at the Kansas Speedway over the weekend, securing his place in the next round of the race. playoffs.

Denny Hamlin the owner? He feels better.

The car he’s been chasing on dwindling laps for Sunday’s race happens to be the #45 car that Bubba Wallace drives for 23XI Racing, which is owned by Hamlin and Hall of Fame basketball star Michael Jordan. The victory propelled the team to the next round in the race for the owner’s championship, the somewhat lesser known NASCAR Cup Series title.

Hamlin, whose team took their first win with Wallace last year in a shortened rain race last year in Talladega, second when Kurt Busch drove 45th into victory lane in the spring race in Kansas.

“I can’t tell you how hard it is to win this series,” Hamlin said. “And with this five-year plan to get into a competition organization for the championship, I’m the realist in the group, knowing we have a lot of ground to cover, but we’re starting to get results. That hard work is paying off. And in a few years, I hope you’ll talk about our victory over A more regular basis.

Well, people are definitely talking about the team this week.

Wallace narrowly missed the competition for the reigning driver’s championship in the #23 car, finishing second at the Daytona 500 and again in Michigan, when a win in either would have secured his place in the 16-driver field.

Bush got his win in Kansas, but a crash during qualifying in Pocono in July left him feeling the long-term effects of a concussion. He decided to forgo consideration of playoffs before the final race of the regular season, but with the car still eligible for the owner’s title, Hamlin and Team 23XI decided to move Wallace to seat number 45.

This move seemed genius on Sunday.

Wallace, who has a penchant for confusion come crunch time, remained calm and cool as he rammed around the Kansas Speedway with a relaxed lead. And even as Hamlin started cutting tenths of a second along his stretch, Wallace kept making steady laps, keeping his boss at bay, and eventually taking the checkered flag.

Within seconds, Bush was already tweeting Wallace and Team #45 congratulations.

Wallace said, “I hate the script we’re with, but he was nothing but a defender and a leader for us. When we get back to the Monday morning meetings, it gives us great insight into how we can be better, and I appreciate him for that. He taught me to be better on the racetrack, Not to mention going off the track. He’s talked about self-belief and has always believed in me.”

When Hamlin and Jordan expanded 23XI Racing from one car last year to two, their goal was to create an organization with multiple cars working in concert, rather than a team where each crew would launch their own track. And this in-store synergy is a big reason why Wallace was able to smoothly get into the #45 car.

He finished ninth in the post-season opener in Darlington before winning in Kansas.

“We were trying to integrate this into where we could switch the pit crew at any moment. When one team wins, the other crew gets rewards too,” Hamlin said. “We’re trying to instill a very positive mindset as a team. After we got that, and earned eligibility in the owner’s championship, we were able to break up and put the best pieces in our racing team out and compete at our best. Bubba was an easy pick for us, especially given his results in the past few months.”

Wallace sure has had detractors over the years, and he cast a bit of a shadow on them when he jumped out of his car on the front stretch on Sunday. But it would be hard to find any detractors when it comes to racing 23XI, which at least for now is looking over its shoulder at strong races like Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske.

“We know how good we are. Wallace’s crew chief, Buttie Parker, said.” And I knew how good Bubba had been, and how good he had been all year. So I feel so happy for him, and the fact that we took her to them. What will you say now? What can you throw stones at us at this time? I’m happy for our entire organization.”

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