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NASCAR: Bubba Wallace will drive the No. 45 car for 23XI Racing

23XI Racing announces that Bubba Wallace will drive the No. 45 car for the remainder of the NASCAR season while Ty Gibbs will continue to drive the No. 23 car.

Austin Konenski
NASCAR: Cup Practice & Qualifying
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

23XI Racing announced on Wednesday afternoon that Bubba Wallace will drive the No. 45 car for the remainder of the 2022 NASCAR season while Ty Gibbs will substitute for Kurt Busch in the No. 23 car.

Wallace, 28, has four top-5 finishes, six top-10 finishes, and an 18.7 average finish over the course of the 2022 season. Meanwhile, Gibbs, 19, has one top-10 finish and a 19.7 average finish in six races for 23XI Racing.

Why is 23XI Racing making this move and what does it mean for the NASCAR playoffs?

Related: Bubba Wallace inks multi-year extension with 23XI Racing

NASCAR: Bubba Wallace to the No. 45 car, Ty Gibbs to the No. 23 car

NASCAR: Ally 400 Qualifying
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The idea of switching Bubba Wallace and Ty Gibbs is a brilliant move for 23XI Racing and it’s a pretty easy concept to understand. It all comes back to the No. 45 car making the NASCAR owner’s playoffs.

While Busch is not eligible for the playoffs after withdrawing due to a concussion, the No. 45 car is still allowed to be in the owner’s championship. That is why Ryan Blaney’s No. 12 team is not eligible for the owner’s championship.

If 23XI Racing wanted to maximize the No. 45 car’s performance and gain extra money at the end of the season, keeping Gibbs in the vehicle was likely not the way to go as he is going to tracks for the first time.

However, Wallace is a veteran in NASCAR and has run all of the races during the 2022 season. There’s no reason why the No. 45 car can’t advance to the Round of 12, maybe even the Round of 8 with Wallace’s performances.

There could be a possibility that a driver wins the driver’s championship, but a different teams win the owner’s championship. Gibbs was likely not going to put the No. 45 car in contention based on recent performances.

The 28-year-old driver will keep his crew Bootie Barker III while Gibbs will keep crew chief Billy Scott. Also, the sponsors will now switch rides which means Monster Energy will be the sponsor of the No. 23 car.

It does not mean that Busch is out for the remainder of the season, but if he were to return, it would now be in the No. 23 car. Something like this is not common in NASCAR but it’s certainly a great decision for the organization.

It allows Gibbs to continue his development and maximize his performances while not being under pressure in the No. 45 car. It also creates a situation where Wallace can feel the playoff pressure in a slightly different way.

A fun fact is that Gibbs will not be the first driver named “Ty” to drive the No. 23 car. Ty Dillon, a driver at Petty GMS Motorsports, drove the No. 23 car at the 2021 Clash at the Daytona Road Course.

This news from 23XI Racing might be shocking on the surface, but it is a brilliant move that no one outside of the organization was thinking about as the playoffs began. Now, there’s a new wrinkle to consider.