NASCAR: 'Emotions are super high,' says fellow driver Denny Hamlin, who owns Wallace's car

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Oct. 4—TALLADEGA — As a driver, Monday afternoon was OK for Denny Hamlin.

As a team owner, it couldn't have been better.

Hamlin and basketball icon Michael Jordan own 23XI Racing, which owns the No. 23 racing team that Bubba Wallace drove to victory in the rain-shortened YellaWood 500.

"Emotions are super high," said Hamlin, who placed seventh. "I didn't realize it would be this high at this moment. But I understand what it takes to get to this level."

Hamlin and Jordan began 23XI Racing in the summer of 2020, and this is the first season on the track. Hamlin called the people in his racing organization "his family."

"I'm certainly more emotional and more happy for someone else's victory on this day that I am my own," Hamlin said.

Hamlin, a former Cup champion, has offered advice to Wallace before, and he could see that good things were going to happen at the Cup Series' two superspeedway tracks at Daytona and Talladega.

Wallace was 19th at Daytona to begin the season, then 17th at Talladega. At the second Daytona race, he was second, which was his best finish at the time.

"I've just seen a transition with him, his willingness to take in information and apply it," Hamlin said. "I think this is not going to be the last time you're going to be hearing about his name on a superspeedway. He's very gifted at them. He has very, very good instincts."

This is Wallace's fourth year as a full-time Cup driver. Monday was his 143rd Cup race. He drove the Richard Petty No. 43 car for the first three years before moving to 23XI Racing before this season.

"I think this is just a stepping point that I'm sure you're going to see in performance in the last part of this year and into next year," Hamlin said. "What the media doesn't see is the work that he's putting in behind the scenes to be a better race car driver. It just takes time to apply it."

Wallace has drawn mixed reactions from racing fans since he was swallowed by a incident at Talladega Superspeedway in June 2020. The FBI investigated when the pulldown to Wallace's garage door at the track was discovered to have been fashioned into a noose. The investigation found that the noose was in place for months, before Wallace was assigned the garage by his place in the points standings.

Some fans didn't take Wallace's side. Even during driver introductions at Talladega this weekend, Wallace drew the most boos.

Wallace's victory and the circumstances of NASCAR calling the race because of rain brought a swift reaction on social media — some of it unkind.

"Those people just need to grow up honestly, appreciate the accomplishment that the kid just had," Hamlin said. "He drove it to the front, and the caution came out. There's not much else you can do."

Hamlin said he was the one to encourage Wallace to ignore social media. Wallace said later he hasn't been on social media for several months.

"I try to say to him, 'Don't get your motivation trying to prove haters wrong. Instead get your motivation from trying to do the people that support you proud,'" Hamlin said. "That's where the motivation is going to come from, is the people that are going to support you through the good times and the bad times."

Senior Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.

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