Rewatching old Truck races gives NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace more confidence, awareness

Bubba Wallace speaks on his mental state and how it is the best it had ever been.

Bubba Wallace said his mental state is the best it has been in his NASCAR career.

Throughout the offseason, he’s found himself rewatching his 2014 Truck Series races. Wallace, who has been public about his battles with self-doubt throughout his career, is developing an appreciation and an awareness for where he is in the sport.

And on the heels of his first career playoff berth, Wallace has a refreshed mind-set this season. He’s trying to focus more on his bigger goals and dreams and not sweat the little things.

But maintaining that mental repose isn’t nearly as easy when you’re climbing into a Cup car every Sunday.

So Wallace, now 30, tries to picture himself hopping into his truck 10 years ago at Daytona. The wide-eyed driver was taken aback by the track’s size — even though at that point, Martinsville’s half-mile bullring might as well have been a superspeedway.

“Back when you really couldn’t tell that kid nothing,” Wallace said about himself. “He’d just jump in a truck and go rip. Didn’t have any self-doubt in the world. Trying to bring that back.”

Whether it was a crown jewel event or just another race, Wallace got the same excitement out of each Sunday when he was rising through the ranks. Just having the opportunity to race at this level felt like everything he’d wanted.

Wallace, who finished 12th in last year’s Cup Series, has grown tougher on himself over the years. Even though he tries to show up at the track with a happy-go-lucky attitude, he’s struggled with depression and beats himself up on the inside.

He liked his head space heading into last season with 23XI Racing, on the heels of Kurt Busch clinching a playoff spot in its No. 45 Toyota (Busch didn’t compete in the playoffs after a brain injury). But that may have made Wallace a bit too confident, and he hopes to have figured out that balance.

“I was just, like, forcing it too much,” Wallace said. “It’s a fine line. You can’t just sit back and let (success) come to you, that’s not how this sport works. You’ve got to go out and earn it. But I think just having a different mind-set — being aggressive, being confident — the self-confidence is what’s gonna yield the results for us.”

Outside of Wallace’s personal accomplishments, 2023 was an unprecedented year for 23XI, the team owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin that will field Cup cars at the Daytona 500 for the fourth straight year. Wallace and Tyler Reddick both qualified for the playoffs, and Reddick reached the Round of 8.

23XI has brought in some new faces behind the scenes who have been playing bigger roles in day-to-day racing activity — studying more spreadsheets, graphs and data.

“I didn’t go to school for enough years to understand what I’m looking at,” Wallace said. “But it just shows the commitment that Denny has, and that feeds down from MJ; they’re giving us all the tools we need to go out and be successful.
“And so, at the end of the day, they’re giving you the keys. And if you can’t do anything with it, that’s on you. I love that pressure.”

Wallace seems to be in good spirits and confident ahead of his seventh season racing full-time in the Cup Series.

But will his better results follow his rejuvenated mentality?

Surrounded by reporters inside the Daytona infield media center, Wallace stuck his legs out. He folded them over, while raising both his hands showing crossed fingers.

“Fingers crossed, dog,” he said.

Shane Connuck
Source: Charlotte Observer