Balancing passion vs. frustration: Bubba Wallace seeks to ‘manage’ emotions

PLYMOUTH, Wis. — Family members fight.

Bubba Wallace snapped at his 23XI Racing crew members over the team’s radio last weekend at Nashville Superspeedway after a pit-road mistake. Almost a week removed from the outburst, Wallace used one word to justify his reaction, offered further explanation and acknowledged he could have reacted differently. Though, he does not hold regrets in life.

“Passion,” Wallace said Saturday at Road America. “I want to win, need to win, gotta win. I have a team capable of winning. The car is capable of winning. So, that just creates passion. With passion comes frustration. Just gotta manage it.”

MORE: Analysis: Bubba’s radio rant | Kurt Busch’s advice to Bubba

The No. 23 Toyota finished 12th at Nashville. Wallace fired off 30th, made his way up to seventh at the end of Stage 1 on Lap 90 but dropped to 19th come Stage 2’s conclusion on Lap 185. He had to make an extra pit stop during that second stage due to a loose wheel.

That sparked Wallace’s lashing, which included him telling crew chief Bootie Barker to not speak to him for the remainder of the 300-lap event.

“Heat of the battle,” Wallace said. “Talked to the team, they understand. Talked to Bootie, he understands. He understands the frustration. So, that’s the biggest thing.

“Outside is always going to have a comment.”

Oh, outsiders did. His radio audio was made very public.

LEBANON, TENNESSEE - JUNE 26: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 Root Insurance Toyota, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on June 26, 2022 in Lebanon, Tennessee. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images) | Getty Images
Logan Riely | Getty Images

“Well, it is (a concern),” 23XI Racing team co-owner Denny Hamlin said. “I mean, you can’t embarrass the race team, that’s for sure. I think he knows where we stand on it. And hopefully, it continues to be better.”

Wallace didn’t snap solely because of the one mishap. It was more so the fact he knew it’d lead to yet another poor ending.

Through 17 races, Wallace has just one top-five result — and that came all the way back in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway (runner-up). He then adds just one top 10 (10th at Kansas Speedway in Race 13). Overall, he’s averaging a 21.2 finish.

“He knows there’s things that he can do to be better, but the team knows that they have to do a better job with it,” teammate Kurt Busch said. “So that’s where everybody’s got to put their arm around each other — like all right, we’re a team, there’s no more finger pointing, let’s get to the bottom of it and get it fixed. I think Bubba has been receptive. He’s just being challenged right now on how he handles it.”

There are nine races left in the regular season. Wallace sits seven spots and 139 points below the playoff cutline. If he wins – and there are berths available; 12 of the 16 are taken – he’s in. And Wallace has won before, breaking through at Talladega Superspeedway last year with this No. 23 group.

And that’s a detail he circles back to: This team holds winning capability. But everyone has to work together.

“That’s what I’m passionate about, is making the crew feel we’re one team and family,” Wallace said. “My family has chewed my (expletive) out a couple times and told me to be better. You just have to continue to work with them and show them that we’re all in this together. No matter how frustrated we get or how good the times get, we’re still in this together. It’s a team effort.”