Monday, June 27, 2022

Denny Hamlin is determined to change 23XI Racing’s costly mistakes

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Racing the NASCAR Cup Series at Kansas Speedway was an emotional day for Denny Hamlin. He finished fourth overall and watched his two 23XI Racing drivers finish strongly after weeks of frustration.

“You know, as an organization, we kind of let these guys down,” an emotional Hamlin told FOX Sports after the race. “I’m talking about Bubba and Kurt with so many mistakes we made in the pit lane and stuff like that. At the last stop, Bubba was let down again, but he was quick. I found him a little better than me. We had to go back three times today.

“But let’s talk about the positive aspects. I just can’t thank Kurt enough. Jordan Brand’s first race. So jealous that he gets to drive this car and then has the thing there so quickly. I’m just – yes. I’ve never felt that way about winning, let alone winning, so it’s just different.”

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Hamlin added more context during his post-race media availability. He explained that 23XI Racing would have to “fundamentally change” the way the team works so that there are no further problems. He explained that a successful pit stop isn’t quite as important as a solid one, which keeps the drivers in a solid position.

The final standings are only partially representative of how strong the 23XI Racing cars were in Kansas. Kurt Busch won his first top 10 since the Daytona 500 after a dominant performance in which he led 116 laps while Bubba Wallace finished 10th overall.

The driver of the #23 Toyota secured points in all three stages of the race, which will help him in the standings of the season. However, Wallace also finished in the top five on several occasions before penalties from his pit crew dropped him to the back of the field.

The first penalty over the wall early for a crew member came on lap 83 of the Cup Series race. Wallace had to fall back to the back field but was able to bounce back by the end of Stage 2 and secure more points.

The second penalty came on lap 198 after a spin by Chase Elliott brought up the warning flag. Wallace went down the pit lane in fifth but had to fall backwards again. One of his crew members threw the tire to the right instead of towards the pit wall. That tire rolled onto the pit lane, where several drivers hit it and threw it back over the roof of Wallace’s production car.

Wallace was able to bounce back from those issues in Kansas and secure a top 10 finish, a big change from previous races. He showed speed all day and put himself in a position to consistently score points. Although he probably would have struggled for another top five finish had he not had to work his way through the field multiple times.

“We need to clean up our pit lane chaos and at least keep the 23 where it’s going when they come into the pits. Work hard on this frustrating problem” 23XI Racing President Steve Lauletta tweeted after the Kansas race. He made this comment in response to a fan who said Wallace would be in the playoffs on points without his pit crew.

The overall AdventHealth 400 result was favorable for Hamlin and 23XI Racing. Busch won while Wallace added a top 10 finish with stage points. However, problems with the pit crew continued a month after Hamlin previously addressed them.

The driver-owner met with media at Martinsville Speedway on April 9, a week after winning his first race of the year. He explained that the No. 23 and No. 45 teams were both in a two-week crisis that they had to end in order to return to playoff contention.

“We’re trying to address whatever issues there are,” Hamlin said, quoted with permission from NASCAR Media. “That [No.] 23 car is, the pit crew is not well. You know I’m in a meeting with Joe Gibbs Racing and I thank them for everything they do for me and then we go from this meeting to another and I curse them because we just don’t do a good job over there. So it’s just a very interesting thing going on, but that’s part of it.”

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The driver-owner met with media at Martinsville Speedway on April 9, a week after winning his first race of the year. He explained that the No. 23 and No. 45 teams were both in a two-week crisis that they had to end in order to return to playoff contention.



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