Will Friends Turn Into Foes As Michael Jordan’s Star Clashes With Talladega Wildcard?

Published 09/29/2023, 10:19 AM EDT

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The second showdown in the second round of playoffs is teetering on the brink, and the rumor mill is churning. Pundits and fans are placing their bets, eyes peeled on potential victors. Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, and William Byron are the front-runners according to the general consensus, which has been fine-tuned by recent performances.

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Yet, let’s not brush past the dark horses who’ve previously dazzled on the racetrack. Case in point: the protégé of Michael Jordan and Talladega’s wildcard, who’s holding the fort at the 11th spot in the playoff rankings without a single victory lap in the playoffs to his name. And when one tosses in the close-knit friendship between the two racers off the track, we can’t help but wonder: Will the thrill of the race throw a wrench in their bond, as hinted in their last encounter?

No. 23 Michael Jordan and No. 12 are set to duel again at Talladega for a spot in the Top 8


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NASCAR is no stranger to bromances. Corey LaJoie and Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Kyle Larson all share strong off-track bonds despite their on-track rivalries. But bubbling at the top of these heartwarming friendships is the camaraderie between the ace of Michael Jordan, Bubba Wallace, and Roger Penske’s lone playoff warrior, Ryan Blaney.

However, even the closest bonds can be tested. Take, for example, that nail-biting episode at Talladega in April 2023. Ryan Blaney, eyes filled with hope, aimed for a last-lap lead. Bubba Wallace, leading the pack, knew the trophy was in sight if he could just guard his position. But as fate would have it, neither emerged victorious at the Talladega Superspeedway.


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In a climactic clash, Wallace’s third attempt to block Blaney sent the cars into chaos. Despite the havoc, Blaney, avoiding the worst, secured second place, while Wallace trailed in at 28th. Their friendship, put through the wringer, managed to endure the tumult, with both agreeing on the unavoidable circumstances of the race.


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A post shared by Bubba Wallace (@bubbawallace)

Now, the tides are turning again. The looming Talladega track, a historical favorite for the duo, where Wallace has 11 starts with one win, the 2021 playoff race, and Blaney has 18 starts at Talladega with seven top-10 finishes, five top fives, and two wins, presents a fresh battle. With both drivers hungry for a victory to guarantee a spot in the elite top 8, the stakes have never been higher. One can only wonder: will their friendship stand the heat of the competition again as they lock horns, or will the quest for victory throw a spanner in the works?

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Not to mention, the current temperature of their friendship could also tip the scales to some extent in this racing drama.

Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace’s friendship

In the world of NASCAR races, where tension runs higher than the revving engines, friendship is a rare gem. Amidst the tire screech, the heat, and the blinding speed, Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace shine as beacons of brotherhood. Contrary to the expected rivalry, their alliance breaks the mold, standing as the most celebrated friendship within NASCAR circles.

Their jovial media appearances and mutual appreciation, which are unaffected by the race’s competitive spirit, show that their camaraderie transcends the hustle of the racetrack. They share a bond that doesn’t flinch at the sound of roaring engines or the clash of metal; it holds firm, a steadfast connection in a world defined by speed and competition.


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In a playful tug-of-war of banter, these two often poke fun at each other. Remember when Bubba Wallace cheekily called out Ryan Blaney for his supposed Nickleback fandom? Or the time he teased him for living under a rock and not knowing about the latest tech, like facial recognition? Well, the jokes never end with these two!

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And it’s not just a two-man show. Their bond echoes in the harmonious camaraderie of their families. Social media platforms brim with cheerful snapshots and shared moments, a testament to their seamless integration into each other’s lives. A recent Instagram story of both captioned, “About last night. This cocktail combo by @amandaaawallace @giannatulio” gave a nod to a night well-spent, where Gianna Tulio and Amanda Wallace were celebrating a night of merriment and cocktails, further highlighting the depth of their connection.

With a friendship as steadfast as theirs navigating through the adrenaline and drama of the NASCAR circuit, it’s anyone’s guess how the next chapter will unfold. Not to mention, it’s sure to be a riveting ride!



Written by:

Neha Dwivedi


One take at a time

Neha Dwivedi is a NASCAR Writer for EssentiallySports. Her ability to capture the spirit of the exhilarating races and relay the enthusiasm to her readers distinguishes her as a sports journalist. Neha's articles strike a nice balance between technical accuracy and story-telling.
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Edited by:

Shivali Nathta




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