Bubba Wallace will switch to the 45 car for the rest of the season

WATKINS GLEN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 21: Bubba Wallace, driver of the #23 SiriusXM Radio Toyota, gives a thumbs up to fans as he walks onstage during driver intros prior to the NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on August 21, 2022 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

23XI Racing announced Wednesday that Bubba Wallace will be driving the team’s number 45 Toyota Camry for the rest of the season. Ty Gibbs, subbing for Kurt Busch who has been sidelined for injuries sustained in a crash at Pocono, will switch to the 23 car.

Busch, the primary driver of the 45, was not approved to compete in the Playoffs after Toyota withdrew his medical waiver. That means, for the first time in the modern era of NASCAR, 23XI is in the hunt for an Owners’ Championship but not the Drivers’ Championship.

23XI Racing said that “the move will best position 23XI Racing and the No. 45 car for the strongest run in the playoffs for the Owner’s Championship.”

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – AUGUST 13: Crew members prepare the #23 leidos Toyota, driven by Bubba Wallace and the #45 Jordan Brand Toyota, driven by Ty Gibbs to practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway on August 13, 2022 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Both crew chief pairings will remain, with Bootie Barker joining Wallace at the 45 and Billy Scott moving to the 23 with Gibbs. CBS added that all of the crew and sponsors of each car will transfer entirely, with only the numbers changing.

Wallace is a strong choice to hunt for points after strong runs in the races leading up to the Playoffs, culminating in a strong second-place finish in Michigan. The 45 car currently sits twelfth in owners’ points, securing a spot in the Playoffs by virtue of Kurt Busch’s win at Kansas.

“After consulting with NASCAR, we made this decision in the best interest of the entire organization and for all our employees who helped earn a spot in the playoffs for the Owner’s Championship through their hard work,” team president Steve Lauletta said. “While Ty has done a great job for us in the No. 45 car, we feel that Bubba’s experience in this car, at the upcoming playoff tracks and his recent momentum will give 23XI the best chance at maximizing our points each weekend.

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – AUGUST 14: Ty Gibbs, driver of the #45 Jordan Brand Toyota, and Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Mobil 1 Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway on August 14, 2022 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“We recognize that this is a unique opportunity in the Cup Series,” he added, “and we’re grateful to our employees and partners for standing with the team and supporting this decision.”

Kurt Busch also voiced his support, tweeting: “We are two cars but act as one team. This is another example of teamwork! I support Bubba Wallace and love the leadership I have seen out of him recently. Let’s make a run at the Championship!”

Owen Johnson