Can Bubba Wallace Outperform 23XI Racing Owner Denny Hamlin in 2021 NASCAR Daytona 500?

Published 01/24/2021, 11:45 AM EST
FONTANA, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 29: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, stands by his car before qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

There are only a few more weeks to go before Cup Series action returns in the form of the prestigious Daytona 500. Denny Hamlin, of course, is the current champion of the event and will start as the favorite come February 14th.


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Building up to this event, several drivers would have spent their offseason trying to construct their best possible strategies. The magic of the stock car racing spectacle is known to spring some surprise results.

Could Bubba Wallace be one of the probable challengers? With renewed equipment and more experience under his belt, there is a reason to believe in the possibility.


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Bubba Wallace has two top-5 finishes at Daytona

Considering the host of premier teams and their lineup of cars often occupy the Top-10 places, Wallace boosted his credentials last season at Daytona.

Fending off challenges from his rival drivers, he clinched a 5th-place finish in the 2020 Coke Zero Sugar 400 race. Just about a few years ago, Wallace had taken his No.43 Chevrolet to 2nd in the 2018 Daytona 500.

The personnel at Richard Petty Motorsports and NASCAR fans, in general, were impressed with the result, and rightly so.

SPARTA, KENTUCKY – JULY 12: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #43 Victory Junction Chevrolet, races Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota, during the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

In addition to all these numbers, the 27-year-old’s biggest weapon right now is the unpredictability of his new car. After all, no one has a track record of the No.23 Toyota Camry’s performances, considering it makes its debut only this season.

Finally, Wallace’s comfort level with the Toyota vehicles has seen him fetch glorious results in the past. With a familiar partnership ensuing in a few weeks’ time, one can certainly consider Bubba to do some bright things.

Does he have enough to challenge Denny Hamlin, a 3-time Daytona 500 victor?

That said, we cannot forget that the Joe Gibbs Racing No.11 has 3 trophies to his name, including back-to-back titles in 2019 and 2020. Hamlin also has an incredible number of Cup Series races under his belt, and on his day, he can be absolutely dominant.


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DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 17: Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, poses with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Both drivers will have a Toyota Camry at their disposal, but it could come down to finer margins in driving on the track. That is where, as a race-winner, Hamlin has excelled time and time again in the past.

So while the 23XI Racing team owner starts off as the favorite, Wallace is in with a shout as an outside contender. Only time will tell us if the latter can come good against Hamlin in the ‘Great American Race’.


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Bhargav Gopal

927 articles

Hailing from Bengaluru, Bhargav is an F1 and NASCAR author for EssentiallySports. He is a huge fan of Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing. Bhargav also has an MBA in Sports Management from the Symbiosis School of Sports Sciences, Pune.