It's no secret that Bubba Wallace came into the 2021 NASCAR season with something to prove, and it all started at the Daytona 500. Although Bubba Wallace was able to stay up front for much of the evening, even running in the top 5 at one point, bad luck on pit road ultimately ended his chances of winning.
Not only was it a blow to Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan, who put together 23XI Motorsports in order to hire Bubba Wallace Jr., it was also a huge hit to someone who is supposed to be a contender in NASCAR. It also begs the question of whether he is the right driver for the job or not.
That conversation aside, Wallace Jr. was taken out of the race after his team failed to secure all three lugnuts during a pitstop. This forced Bubba Wallace Jr. to come back down pit road and get the tire secured. Once this happened, the young driver found himself a lap down and competing for a top 20 finish.
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Bubba Wallace Jr. would eventually finish 17th in his new ride, which makes next week's race at the Daytona road course crucial for the team. If he can bounce back, it will mean a nice little leap up in the standings, and might even be enough to lift him into the playoff picture.
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If he can't finish strong on the Daytona Road Course, however, he risks running into the same criticism that he was subjected to last year. His role with NASCAR will be endlessly questioned, reinitiating his earlier downfall.
In the end, Bubba Wallace Jr.'s NASCAR career will come down to how he responds to these setbacks and what happens next. Hopefully he will be able to rebound in some form and pull off his first top 10 finish of the season. Either that, or risk opening the flood gates of criticism for the remainder of the season.