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Judging by developments in the business of racing, it's clear that corporate America simply can't get enough of Bubba Wallace. Simply put, the 28-year old driver from Alabama and the first Black driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race in stock car racing's modern era has become a marketing dream that some of the biggest brands in America are capitalizing on.

This week, Wallace picked up a new sponsor in Wheaties, which will adorn his No. 23 Toyota at Auto Club Speedway next February while Wallace promotes the brand's 100th Anniversary. McDonald's announced last week that they would expand their sponsorship of Wallace, and that they would sponsor him in the 2022 Daytona 500. Major brands like DoorDash, Columbia Sportswear, Root Insurance and more are sponsors of Wallace's as well.

Although sponsorship support for Wallace has become almost overwhelming, things weren't always like this for him: In the early stages of his career, and before he became famous, Wallace was just one of many young NASCAR drivers who have to grind, scratch, and claw to attract the attention of a sponsor. A part of the work of a racer that's almost as demanding as actually driving, and a burden that Wallace is glad to have lifted off his shoulders thanks to the influx of sponsors to his race team.

"It definitely allows you to focus on your actual craft and to go out there and race and get the best results that you can. The sleepless nights are a little less now that we have funding," Wallace told CBS Sports. "And so with having great partners come on board, it was a spectacular first year for us at 23XI Racing this year and we're already starting to back it up going our sophomore year. It's nice, it's humbling, it makes you appreciate all those tough days in years' prior."

Those tough days came as Wallace made his way up through the ranks of NASCAR, and they extended to the early portion of his Cup career. As he made his way through the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series, Wallace relied largely on manufacturer support from Toyota and then at Ford as well as limited sponsorship. Eventually, the money ran out, and Wallace saw his Xfinity team shut down midway through the 2017 season due to lack of sponsorship. Even after moving to the Cup Series with Richard Petty Motorsports, limited sponsorship played a significant role in limiting Wallace's ceiling as a Cup driver.

Compared to those he came up the ranks alongside, those issues have led to Wallace's path to being a top Cup Series driver becoming much more protracted. A decade ago, Wallace was among the very first drivers in the NASCAR NEXT program, which served as a showcase and springboard for drivers like Wallace, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and more. Many, including Wallace, have since made it to NASCAR's top level -- and are among the sport's biggest stars.

But even as he stands alongside his contemporaries as one of the young faces of NASCAR, Wallace is well aware that he still has a ways to go to match them.

"Chase and Larson have championships – me and Ryan don't. And I'm still behind Ryan, so they've got a lot more race wins and have been able to show each and every weekend that they're contending for wins," Wallace said. "We have a lot to do, a lot to clean up, and a lot to get better on as far as myself for sure. But it's cool to see us come from where we're at from (when we were) little kids. I raced ever since I was 10 years old with Ryan and Chase. I met Larson when he just joined in the NASCAR ranks.

"It's cool to see everybody doing well. I know there's a lot in front of me to catch up to, but I remember back in those days where I was beating them. So I know we can do it, we've just got to put it all together."

In 2021, Wallace was finally able to stake his claim to being a Cup Series winner. In the fall race at Talladega, with impending rain very much a threat to end the race, Wallace took the lead at Lap 113 and held it for the next five laps before the caution came out and the skies opened up. When rain prevented the race from being resumed, Wallace was declared the winner, scoring his first career Cup victory and the first for a Black driver since Hall of Famer Wendell Scott's lone Cup Series win in 1963.

That Talladega win -- which Wallace estimates he's watched about 100 times -- highlighted a strong superspeedway program for 23XI Racing in the team's maiden season. But mixed in with Wallace's Talladega win and a second-place finish at Daytona was somewhat uneven results for the first-year team co-owned by NBA icon Michael Jordan and NASCAR star Denny Hamlin: Besides a fifth-place finish at Pocono, good days for Wallace and his team generally ended in the Top 15 or 20, with bad days entailing missed opportunities through self-inflicted wounds.

Still, when approaching the situation pragmatically, Wallace believes 23XI's first season was a good one.

"Getting that win at Talladega obviously meant a lot. I think that was a huge accomplishment that I don't know if any of us had in mind that would happen this year just because everything's new and we're trying to figure everything out," Wallace said. "But aside from the speedway stuff, we had a lot of races that stood out where we had a lot of speed and we were making the most of it, and then I'd make a mistake late in the race or the pit crew would make a mistake.

"But it's growing pains, it's a learning curve for all of us getting through this first year and trying to iron out the kinks that we encountered. Satisfied for sure. I get to do what I love, basically work one day out of the week, so I'm not complaining. But we've got to step it up. We've got to clean up some stuff on my end, clean up some stuff on the pit crew, just clean up stuff as a whole to really be competitive."

Part of Wallace's excitement for next season is the expansion of 23XI, as Kurt Busch -- the longest-tenured Cup Series driver and the 2004 series champion -- is joining the team to drive a second car. Wallace believes that Busch's insights and overall attitude will be uplifting for the team, particularly as they try to get ahead of the curve with the introduction of NASCAR's Next Gen car.

"Having a mindset and the experience of Kurt Busch will help us grow and show progress at a good rate. That's what I'm excited about," Wallace said. "Kurt's been around, he's been doing this for a long time, but it is a clean slate for everybody. This is a brand new car for all of us. The way it drives, the atmosphere is totally different, so it's gonna take some adjusting.

"But having Kurt there giving his feedback, given his stature and who he is as a person, who he is as a driver, it's already starting to show and shine light through all the directions in our team. It'll be good."

While Wallace prepares for the 2022 season, he spent the early part of this week promoting the launch of Wheaties' 100th Anniversary series, delivering the new Michael Jordan Gold Foil Wheaties box across the Charlotte area. Jordan, the co-owner of 23XI Racing, is making a record-breaking 19th appearance on the Wheaties box.

"I look at Wheaties as such an iconic brand, and it's an honor to be partnered up with them," Wallace said. "When I was a kid I definitely remember sitting there before school reading the back of Wheaties boxes, enjoying all the athletes that they had covered, true acts of champions, what they've accomplished on and off the courts, the fields, the racetracks, you name it – Wheaties has been there to add a spotlight and to carry their name. And so this is an honor for us to highlight the success of Michael Jordan, our team owner. He made history recently becoming the first Black majority owner in NASCAR, and so I'm just the lucky one who gets to drive the racecar.

"So it'll be cool to kick off the partnership with this announcement today and get to race the Wheaties Toyota Camry in California later on this year. Really cool for us, really exciting for MJ I'm sure."