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Bubba Wallace to work with new crew chief starting at Bristol

23XI Racing announced Thursday that Mike Wheeler, crew chief for Bubba Wallace and the No. 23 Toyota, will become the organization’s full-time director of competition.

As a result, Bootie Barker will take over as Wallace’s crew chief for the remainder of the season, starting this Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

Wheeler had previously handled both roles as 23XI’s director of competition and crew chief.

In a release, 23XI said that Wheeler’s full-time move to director of competition would allow him to focus on growing the organization, which includes expansion to a two-car program next season.

“Being a part of 23XI Racing from when it was just an idea, to seeing the plans come to life, securing our temporary shop and working to build this team has been an amazing opportunity and one I’m excited to continue as the team grows and expands,” said Wheeler in the release.

“I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to be back on the box this season with the No. 23 team and Bubba, but to be able to solely focus on the next steps it takes to expand to a multi-car team, build a new shop and get this team to where it’s in contention to win each and every week is exciting for me and I’m ready to give it my full attention as we finish this season and move in to 2022.

“Bootie (Barker) has been a great asset to 23XI Racing all season and with his experience, he was the right choice to step in and finish the 2021 season with Bubba and the No. 23 Toyota Camry team.”

23XI Racing was formed late last year by Cup star Denny Hamlin and sports legend Michael Jordan, with Wallace chosen to drive its No. 23 entry.

But the team has had some struggles in its first Cup season. Wallace is currently 22nd in points with just two top-five finishes (fifth at Pocono-2, second at Daytona-2).

He now joins forces with Barker, who returns to a Cup crew chief role for the first time since 2017, when he worked with Ty Dillon at now-defunct Germain Racing.