DAYTONA BEACH, Fla — The long awaited rumor pairing Kurt Busch to 23XI Racing has now been confirmed. The team announced on Friday evening that Busch will pilot the No. 45 Toyota for them in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season.
As to why the 45?
When Michael Jordan came out of retirement in 1995, he wore jersey number 45. He also wore No. 23 before and after that. Hence – Bubba Wallace in the No. 23 Toyota and Busch now in the No. 45.
The number was tied previously to Richard Petty Motorsports with the No. 45 being special to them. This was supposed to be Adam Petty’s number. When he tragically passed away with a crash in Loudon in 2000, the team elected to keep that number close.
Kyle Petty drove his sons number after that fact.
Petty, issued a statement on Friday
Also, a photo from the announcement showed that the number was going to be moved forward for next year. While nothing has been 100% announced on that front yet, this is a clear indication on what’s likely coming.
This is exactly what the team was searching for in the sense they wanted a veteran to come in and help get them up to speed. Wallace, has done a solid job in the first year of the organization, but without a true teammate, there’s nothing to bounce ideas off of to see if they’re heading in the right direction.
Busch, is the man to help this.
Busch, joins 23XI Racing for his 23rd season in the NASCAR Cup Series following a three year stint with Chip Ganassi Racing where he drove the No. 1 car. The 2004 Cup Series champion comes to 23XI Racing with 33 Cup Series wins and 326 top-10 finishes throughout his career.
“I cannot begin to express my gratitude for this opportunity,” said Busch. “Racing to win is what I live for. Helping to continue developing a new team, alongside Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin, and Toyota is exactly what I want to be part of. Winning is important to 23XI, it’s important to Monster Energy, and it’s important to me. That is our goal.”
“When we started this team, our vision was to grow to a multi-car organization. To be able to expand in just our second year is a huge step for us,” said 23XI Racing co-owner Denny Hamlin. “Kurt brings a wealth of knowledge and a championship mindset to our team, and will be able to help us grow stronger and more competitive each and every week.”
When Busch won his first race in 2019 with Ganassi, it was the No. 1 Chevrolet’s first win in 64 races. It only took Busch 19 times to make them victors.
See, the last time this organization had been to victory lane was in the 2017 regular season finale in Richmond. That was with the 42 car. The car Busch was driving hadn’t won a race since 2013. There’s a lot of guys on that team that haven’t tasted victory in nearly six years.
Nothing against Jamie McMurray, but this car just didn’t deliver the results that they were capable of prior. Since 2011, this car had one win, 24 top five finishes and 76 top 10’s. Over their last few years, McMurray had seven top fives and 36 top 10’s.
Busch meanwhile, has 17 top five finishes and 46 top 10’s in just 97 races with Ganassi. He’s also led laps (556).
Busch, brought with him 30 career wins and a 2004 championship to Ganassi. He brings 33 wins with him to 23XI as he knows how to win and what it takes to get there. His wisdom led this team back to victory and he hopes he can lead this new team to victory next season.
Monster Energy will join Busch at 23XI Racing and serve as the primary partner of the No. 45 TRD Camry.
“Joining up with 23XI Racing is a perfect fit for our core values at Monster Energy,” said Monster Energy CMO Dan McHugh. “The formation of the team marks a new chapter in motorsports and will unlock a wealth of opportunities to create exciting initiatives for fans. We are also very happy to continue our sponsorship with Kurt Busch who has been a member of the Monster family for many years.”
Additional partners and team personnel for the No. 45 TRD Camry team will be announced at a later date with the team in pursuit of a charter. Where that comes from would likely be from a purchase of one of Rick Ware Racing’s Charters, StarCom or even a rumored buyout of at least one of Front Row Motorsports’.
With this move being done, what’s left?
Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain are off the list. Who’s left?
Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Preece and Matt DiBenedetto head the list.
We also know we’ll have 38 full time cars next season if JTG and 23XI Racing don’t secure charters.
The 2021 charter list.
Hendrick Motorsports (No. 5, No. 9, No. 24, No. 48)
Stewart-Haas Racing (No. 4, No. 10, No. 14, No. 41)
Joe Gibbs Racing (No. 11, No. 18, No. 19, No. 20)
Rick Ware Racing (No. 52, No. 53, No. 15)
Team Penske (No. 2, No. 12, No. 22)
Richard Childress Racing (No. 3, No. 8)
Roush Fenway Racing (No. 6, No. 17)
Chip Ganassi Racing (No. 1, No. 42)
Front Row Motorsports (No. 34, No. 38)
JTG Daugherty Racing (No. 47)
23XI Racing (No. 23)
Wood Brothers (No. 21)
Spire Sports (No. 7, No. 77)
Spire Sports (No. 99) *leased to Trackhouse Racing
Richard Petty Motorsports (No. 43)
Live Fast Motorsports (No. 78)
StarCom Racing (No. 00)
Petty Ware Racing (No. 51)
For 2022, the list remains somewhat similar.
Hendrick Motorsports (No. 5, No. 9, No. 24, No. 48) *no changes
Joe Gibbs Racing (No. 11, No. 18, No. 19, No. 20) *no changes
Stewart-Haas Racing (No. 4, No. 10, No. 14, No. 41) *no changes unless the 10 car has a new driver
Team Penske (No. 2, No. 12, No. 22) *Cindric replaces Keselowski in the No. 2
Roush Fenway Racing (No. 6, No. 17) *Keselowski replaces Ryan Newman in the No. 6
Richard Childress Racing (No. 3, No. 8) *no changes expected
Trackhouse Racing (No. 1, No. 99) *team bought out Chip Ganassi Racing, Chastain takes over the No. 1
Front Row Motorsports (No. 34, No. 38) *McDowell likely back in the 34, the 38 ride is open
Kaulig Racing (2 charters, numbers TBA) – Justin Haley in 1 car, AJ Allmendinger to share the 2nd car with other driver. Charters purchased from Spire.
Wood Brothers (No. 21) *Harrison Burton replaces Matt DiBenedetto for 2022
JTG Daugherty Racing (No. 47) *car is open for the taking, team seeking an additional charter
23XI Racing (No. 23) *Bubba Wallace will be back in 2022, team seeking an additional charter for Kurt Busch
Spire Sports (No. 7) *Corey LaJoie back in the No. 7, they sold other 2 charters for Kaulig.
Richard Petty Motorsports (No. 43) *Erik Jones will be back.
Live Fast Motorsports (No. 78) *Team not selling a charter, looking for drivers for 2022.
StarCom Racing (No. 00) *Are they back?
Rick Ware Racing (No. 52, No. 53, No. 15) *How many of these charters are back?
Petty Ware Racing (No. 51) *Does RWR and Petty sell this one?
As you can see, 31 of the 36 charters are known with StarCom and RWR now holding the keys to the rest of Silly Season for 23XI, JTG and GMS’ chances of securing a charter.
Stewart-Haas Racing (1) – No. 10 Ford
JTG Daugherty Racing (2) – No. 37 and No. 47 Chevrolet’s
Front Row Motorsports (2) – No. 34 and No. 38 Fords
Richard Petty Motorsports (1) – No. 43 Chevrolet
Kaulig Racing (1) – Part time seat in 1 of their Chevrolet’s
Rick Ware Racing – all their seats are open
GMS Racing – has an opening
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Almirola likely ends up back with SHR now, JTG would be wise to retain both drivers and it would be wise if both return. That could squeeze Newman back to part time in a third RFR car if they bring that out on select events and DiBenedetto on the outside looking in with most of everything else done.
Kaulig’s other part time driver, SHR’s 10 car and both at JTG are what’s left.
The slogan “Names are Made Here” has been so true for the NASCAR Xfinity Series lately. Several drivers have made a name for themselves in NASCAR’s version of what AAA is to baseball and another young class is set to move up to the big leagues of the NASCAR Cup Series in 2022.
We already knew that Justin Haley was going to drive a full time car for Kaulig Racing. We also already knew that Austin Cindric would be in Cup but plans changed as he will now move from the initial plan of taking over the No. 21 Ford for the Wood Brothers and shift sooner over to the No. 2 Ford at Team Penske instead.
With that move, the Wood Brothers had an opening and in comes 20 year old Harrison Burton. That’s three drivers moving up the ranks which follows Chase Briscoe doing so last year. He followed Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer and Christopher Bell.
I mean, just look at those names. You also have to look at what’s being left being for the series itself too.
Reddick won eight times in two straight championship seasons between 2018 and 2019. Custer was second in points in both years and also won eight times those two seasons. Bell, won 15 times between 2018 and 2019 himself as all three made the Championship 4 in 2018 and again in 2019.
Briscoe and Cindric joined them in victory lane in 2019 as the five of them combined to win 25 of the 33 races that year. Kyle Busch won four of the other eight that they didn’t win.
In 2020, the door was open with all three moving up to Cup but Cindric and Briscoe took over. They’d win 15 times between themselves. Haley, won two more as they’d comprise three of the four Championship 4 spots last November in Phoenix. Burton, won four times himself with Cindric, Haley, Briscoe and Burton combining to win 21 of the 33 races.
This season, Cindric has already won four times. In fact, if you look at the top seven in overall points, three of them have full time rides in Cup next year. A fourth, AJ Allmendinger, will be part time.
That leads the question being, who’s next?
Since 2018, only Daniel Hemric (2018) and Justin Allgaier (2019, 2020) have made the championship four other than these drivers mentioned above. Between them, they’ve won 50% of the races since the start of the 2018 season. They won 76% of the races in 2019 and 64% in 2020.
Who’s left to hold the candle as most of the top rides in Cup are taken by these younger drivers?
Allgaier is the most logical choice but he’s 35. Allmendinger is too but he’s 39. What about Jeb Burton? He’s 28. Daniel Hemric is 30 without a formed path anymore. Josh Berry is 30.
The next guys to fill the gap of the younger ones leaving may be more seasoned veterans without a defined path for them to make it up the ranks to a top Cup ride.
With that said, who’s the next younger class ready to capitalize the same way Reddick, Custer, Bell, Cindric, Briscoe, Haley and Burton did?
Ty Gibbs is likely the next one up for the younger front as he’s won twice already this season in a part time role. He’s only 18. Same for Sam Mayer who’s with JR Motorsports who is just now 18 too. Noah Gragson could also benefit. He’s just 22. But, does it serve him well to come back for another season in Xfinity? He may not have a choice.
JRM could roll out a lineup of Michael Annett, Allgaier, Gragson and Mayer.
Kaulig could leave Burton and Allgaier in full time roles.
Those are the top three to hand the torch off to.
Myatt Snider could be a big benefit next as he’s just 26 and in that same RCR car that Reddick won back-to-back championships in. The jury is still out though on 22 year old Riley Herbst. Brandon Jones is only 24 but his path up the ranks with Toyota or JGR doesn’t appear to have much promise. He either stays with JGR with being an Xfinity Series veteran or tries to move to another team with a better path to Cup.
Other than that, it’s really it. That’s why maybe a thing to watch is what Truck Series drivers get a chance to move up. Will John Hunter Nemechek stay in Trucks another year with KBM or does JGR move him up and cut ties with either Hemric or Jones? Or, do they bring out the No. 54 car for Nemechek and go with four full time NXS cars?
Right now, the future is open again for the Xfinity Series with Gibbs and Mayer taking the next chances up. Nemechek isn’t far behind. Then do you see Gragson, Snider, Herbst and Jones capitalize?
We know Allgaier, Allmendinger, Jeb Burton and Berry have a chance to do something special as veterans in the series. It’s what kids will they be battling with that’s the question.
What’s Someone Like Daniel Hemric’s Future?
Is the door also closing for someone like Hemric or Ty Dillon to get back up to a top Cup seat since now most of them are being taken with the youth movement.
Hendrick Motorsports has all four drivers 28 years of age or younger. Penske’s future in now having 31 year old Joey Logano, 27 year old Ryan Blaney, 22 year old Cindric and 20 year old Burton locked up.
No one new will be with these two teams any time soon.
Stewart-Haas Racing has also gone younger with having Cole Custer (23) as a rookie last year and current rookie Chase Briscoe (26) in a car now. Kevin Harvick will be there through 2023 but with the 10 car potentially open at seasons end, they have a potential to get another younger driver as well. Unless Hemric, Dillon or even at DiBenedetto find themselves vying for a seat here, where else do they have?
RCR obviously would go with Ty Dillon if they expand but right now there’s no plans for that. Name me another team in the Chevrolet or Ford camp at this moment that can be a destination spot for a free agent to go to and be a legitimate playoff contender for a team that I didn’t already mention.
HMS, Trackhouse, RCR and Spire are set with Chevrolet while Penske, Wood Brothers, SHR and even Roush Fenway Racing are set with Ford.
Which then bodes the question, what can Toyota do to their landscape? They lost out on a younger driver to Cup again. They already lost out on Larson and Byron, had Erik Jones but didn’t have room for him to stay, lost Noah Gragson to JR Motorsports and others. Burton is just the latest casualty.
See, Toyota runs a different business model than the other manufacturers. They get scrutinized a lot but they’re also showing that it works.
Toyota won nine times in 2020 and put Denny Hamlin in the Championship 4. In 2019, they won 19 times and had three drivers in the final round including a championship by Kyle Busch. In 2018, they won 13 times. In fact, from 2012 through 2019, they had won at least 10 races seven times in the eight year span.
The thing with them is, they really only had four Cup rides to put their drivers in. They tried to expand with Furniture Row Racing but while that worked for a while, it faded with FRR closing their doors. Leavine Family Racing tried it in 2019 but they folded after the 2020 season. Now, it’s 23XI Racing’s turn. They’re expanding to a second full time car for 2022 which would give Toyota six cars in Cup.
The problem is, Ford and Chevrolet has so much more and a lot more real estate to place younger drivers in. Toyota’s business model doesn’t but Toyota also spends a lot on younger drivers from the dirt ranks to Trucks to Xfinity where Ford and Chevrolet don’t.
Toyota gives them the resources to compete at a high level quick and if you don’t win right off the bat, someone else will. Their only issue is, they’ve not really given the younger drivers that can succeed much room to grow in Cup.
JGR is full. Kyle Busch (36) isn’t going anywhere. 40 year old Denny Hamlin and 41 year old Martin Truex Jr. aren’t either. Why would they? Why would JGR or Toyota want to push them out? All three have contracts in place for the team past this season and I’d expect them to be back not only in 2022 but 2023 as well. So would Christopher Bell. He’s shown to be their future and is only 26.
So, for drivers like Burton or anyone else, what’s their path? When you get a job opportunity in Cup, you take it.
Bubba Wallace will be back with 23XI and he’s only 27. Busch will hold the fort in the second car for a year or two.
It’s clear Ty Gibbs is the future for the 20 car in Xfinity and with Kyle Busch not racing in the series next season, they can keep Brandon Jones in the 19 and if Daniel Hemric wants to return, let him stay in the 18. The only issue is, the path for Jones and Hemric to move up to Cup seems to be low.
Gibbs is likely next in line to move up to Cup in the Toyota camp. I’d say John Hunter Nemechek is behind him.
That means a lot of NASCAR’s future is known really now.