LAS VEGAS – With the closing of Kurt Busch’s full-time chapter in the NASCAR Cup Series, a new one is penned with Tyler Reddick’s move to 23XI Racing, originally scheduled for 2024 and now accelerated a season sooner.
“I am definitely excited about it,” Reddick shared on Saturday just after Busch’s press conference and before practice and qualifying, where he would earn the pole for Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “I’m just thinking about practice and qualifying.”
It was originally planned through a surprise Zoom call when team co-owner Denny Hamlin began the meeting comediacly that Reddick was “in the wrong call.” After their short skit, it soon unfolded to be one of the biggest surprises of NASCAR’s silly season with Reddick leaving Richard Childress Racing to join forces with one of the newest teams in the garage.
Adding more to the drama of Reddick’s career situation, Kyle Busch was announced to be the driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet, slating Reddick to a third RCR team in 2023. It was proven that Reddick wasn’t ill-treated by any means, collecting another win at Texas Motor Speedway, nor would he be in a third-wheel relationship.
“Honestly, it never felt like I was in limbo (at Richard Childress Racing),” assured Reddick. “I got to talk to Richard (Childress) about what the third car would look like, talk to (Andy) Petree to get an understanding of what that would look like. Me and Andy have worked together a number of years and have done a lot of great things together this year, building up over the previous two seasons. We’ve had to remain dedicated to that plan and to one another and trust each other in getting there. Even back in Xfinity days when we were able to go win that championship, (Petree) was really adamant and really pressing upon Richard like, ‘We need to have him in a Cup car.’
“I know that if it had went that way, we would have given it a really good effort.”
That said, the buyout and early move comes from the grim announcement of Kurt Busch’s retirement from full-time racing. Despite efforts to return to racing, Busch shared with media on Saturday morning that he was neither cleared nor fit for racing in the Cup series and would stay out of the No. 45 Toyota Camry for the rest of this season and through 2023.
It is still unknown if Busch will make an attempt at a part-time schedule or singular attempts in 2024 onward, but the next steps for the team was to get Reddick involved right away. Hamlin credited the team’s early success to Busch, who won earlier this season at Kansas Speedway. Fans and competitors alike wondered if Busch could rally a similar 2004 championship run, but Hamlin, out of respect, wanted to avoid wondering what if and focus on the here and now.
“I haven’t thought about the what-ifs but certainly anytime you can forward think, you give yourself options,” Hamlin explained. “Certainly (bringing Reddick in early) was a convenient option for us. Inconvenient that we lost Kurt though. We still wish that we could have Kurt full-time next year and that would be ideal for us. But we’re okay with the transition that we’re having.
“When you move that far in advance certainly you can receive positive or negative feedback forward thinking or it’s too far in advance. Ultimately it led us to the place we’re we feel happy about it.”
For Busch, he will move to an advisor role, though at the time of Saturday’s announcement, specifics of his role were still to be determined. Reddick knows Busch’s resume is important for him to lean on as he moves from his newcomer status to becoming a veteran of stock car racing’s top national series.
“He’s been racing a really long time, has a lot of experience. Personally, had a lot of things happen too,” Reddick reflected. “I know there’s a lot of wisdom that he carries that I feel like for younger drivers like me and Bubba (Wallace), that can be very beneficial for us to have, so I’m excited that he’ll be involved and be able to work together to go the direction that we want to.”
And despite Busch’s emotional announcement, he held his head high. Shouldering the confidence knowing two of the biggest rising names in NASCAR will be looking to him for advice gave him the energy to smile knowing their futures were both very bright. That smile has already shined down on both Wallace and Reddick, even before they officially become teammates.
“In his words, he’s a vibes guy, I feel like,” continued Reddick. “We matched up and get along pretty good. Back when he was with Chip Ganassi Racing, he did some work with Josh Wise so I got to know him a little bit through that. And just being in the garage racing against him throughout the years, me and him well before any of this stuff got along really good, raced each other really well, so that relationship was already, I felt, in a good spot.”
To say Reddick is excited is an understatement, but Hamlin said himself that he chose Reddick to drive for his team because of his winning nature. Reddick’s focus on the weekend proved exactly that.
“I am definitely excited about it. I’m just thinking about practice and qualifying.”