23XI Racing got their guy. Denny Hamlin announced on a Microsoft Teams call on Tuesday morning that they’ve signed Tyler Reddick for the 2024 season and beyond. It’s a multi-year deal to will see Reddick shift over the the organization in two seasons.
“I watched him. I raced against him. I wanted him and I got him,” Hamlin said via the Toyota call.
That’s the good part of Hamlin being a driver and an owner. He gets a first hand look at his competition and can easily see who’s a good fit racing style wise or maybe who isn’t for 23XI. So, what about 23XI though is what drew Reddick away from his current team, Richard Childress Racing?
RCR has 14 driver championships across the top 4 divisions of NASCAR ranging from ARCA to Cup. They’ve won 239 total times in those same 4 divisions including 110 trips to victory lane in NASCAR’s premiere division, the Cup Series.
By comparison, 23XI Racing is in just their 2nd year in the sport. They’ll be in Year 4 by time Reddick joins. So why leave and why do so now?
“The team is very young, but it’s been going in a very positive direction from day one,” Reddick said of his future team. “It’s been obvious. I’m just really excited to get it out there and it’s in front of everyone. 23XI can go to work, myself and RCR can go back to work and continue to be as competitive as possible. But also, I know the future is set in stone and what lays ahead.”
This decision isn’t too surprising but the timing and nature of it somewhat is. 23XI Racing now a year in a half to get this seat ready. They didn’t have that luxury when signing Bubba Wallace or even bringing Kurt Busch over to their 2nd car. This time, they have time to figure this out.
RCR though, has given Reddick cars good enough to be ahead of both 23XI drivers in the standings now as well as last year too. They’ve been close to knocking down the doors of victory lane inside those RCR walls.
Austin Dillon won at Texas in 2020. They nearly got both cars into the playoffs that season as Reddick as a rookie in Cup and with 32 races taking place without any practice that year, finished 19th in points. He did make the postseason a year ago despite not having a win too.
This year, he was as fast as he’s ever been in Cup. After scoring 5 runner-up finishes in the 1st 91 races, he finally got to victory lane two weeks ago in Road America. It’s that moment that it was unveiled that Reddick had exercised his option to remain at RCR for the 2023 season. Both he and Richard Childress said then it wasn’t new. Reddick was already operating on a contract but next year was an option. Reddick opted in.
No one thought then that 2024 would be on the table yet. That’s still 18 months away. However, little did we know, it already was.
Hamlin wanted Reddick. While still young for a team, they have the resources in place to get what Hamlin needs to make 23XI successful. Hamlin and their team on the 23XI side had enough capital in place to take a risk.
They knew Reddick was likely going to opt in for 2023 but would be a free agent for 2024. So, with them on the rise and in all honesty, RCR starting to rise themselves, 23XI had to make Reddick an offer that he couldn’t refuse and do so without a sponsor or funding lined up yet.
That’s right, 23XI and Toyota don’t know whether Reddick will be in a 3rd car for the team or replacing either Bubba Wallace or Kurt Busch. Word is Busch’s contract expires after next season so they could remain a 2 car operation. There’s also potential they could expand to 3 cars which if so, they’d need to buy a charter.
“Bubba was the foundation we built this team on and we have plans for him to be part of the 23XI family for a long time,” 23XI president Steve Lauletta said.
“We’re going to have Kurt as long as Kurt wants to be a race car driver,” Hamlin said. “We want to have him, so that’s pretty much the end of that. And then once he’s done driving, he’s going to have a nice, cushy office job at 23XI. He’s going to be part of our future well beyond his driving days, so we constantly are in dialogue with him on what his plans are. But ultimately, you never know. Things could change and Kurt could want to race until he’s 48 years old. And, if he does, then we’re going to build a car for him.”
Without knowing that future, they still saw enough out of Reddick to offer him a deal.
“It made sense to me; you look at his age, his runway that he has,” Hamlin said. “Franchise drivers don’t come around that often. And so, if there’s ever one that you feel like you can grab, you go after, you do whatever it takes to make that happen and then you work on the details later.”
RCR hasn’t won a Cup title since 1994. They have 5 wins since 2014. Reddick has seen what Kevin Harvick has done since he’s left them. With Austin Dillon always going to get the preferential treatment there and 23XI offering a lot plus being on the rise themselves, Reddick chose a fresh slate.
“It’s very exciting,” Reddick said on Tuesday. “Denny (Hamlin) and Steve (Lauletta), David (Wilson) getting to speak with them and getting to know everyone here. The amount they believe in what I do, and what I can bring to the table, is very exciting.”
David Wilson at Toyota shares that belief back.
“One thing whether you know Tyler (Reddick) or you just watch him, how he holds himself, how he races, he’s a good dude and he’s got the character that meshes well with us,” Wilson said. “We’re honored and flattered that he would consider being a part of our team. And this is a direct reflection on Michael (Jordan), Denny (Hamlin), Steve (Lauletta), the 23XI organization begin well ahead of schedule, and reflects our long-term commitment to their success.”
Hamlin noted that there’s not hidden secrets here with this dealing. They don’t know any details past Reddick is a part of their program.
“All we know is we wanted him and we made sure we planted our feet deep in the ground to make sure Tyler (Reddick) had an opportunity with this race team, and we made it happen,” he says.
“Tyler is one of the most sought-after young drivers and has been competitive in everything he’s raced. His work on the track speaks for itself and he will make a fantastic addition to our lineup in 2024. The team has seen a lot of growth since our first race and signing Tyler is a great next step for us to remain competitive for years to come.”
What’s wild about this is, Reddick just won a race for RCR a few weeks ago and it seemed as if RCR thought that giving him cars capable of winning was good enough. They knew what they had in Reddick. They’ve done everything they could have to keep him happy.
Reddick wanted to be a Cup driver in 2020. He won 2 straight Xfinity Series titles, the last with RCR, and they knew if they didn’t elevate him up, they’d lose him.
So, they made the difficult decision to cut ties with Daniel Hemric after just 1 year in Cup. Hemric, a Kannapolis native of like Dale Earnhardt was, was Rookie of the Year in Cup in 2019 but RCR had to make room for Reddick. They couldn’t run 3 full-time cars and with Dillon being Childress’ grandson, Hemric was the odd man out.
Reddick was close year after year and now this season, is having his best year yet. He finally won. That gave RCR a lot of optimism about their future.
“It’s great to see Tyler Reddick in the winner’s circle,” Childress just said a few weeks ago after their Road America victory. “It wasn’t a matter of if he was going to do it, it was when they were going to win. That’s what we kept telling them. Had a couple of meetings, all of us, and talked about what it’s going to take to get us in the winner’s circle, and that’s not beat yourself and be solid, and that’s what these guys did today, and they did that.
“I’ve watched Tyler since he was running the trucks. He struggled a little bit there, but he was always driving the trucks to their limit. Then when he got in the Xfinity at JR Motorsports, he was the same. He drove — he’s got so much talent, he just pushes that limit every week. I was just proud of what these guys have done and accomplished, and it’s been a huge team effort.”
That’s why despite Reddick saying RCR shouldn’t be too surprised by this announcement, they are. They felt like they were going in a strong direction for a company as well as with Reddick, but Reddick feels on his side that they knew he was talking to other teams too.
The thing now is, how much does this compromise Reddick’s growth with RCR between now and next season. We have 17 races left in 2021 and Reddick knows he’ll be a part of the playoffs. He has 36 races next season. That’s 53 races left with RCR. However, this is the 1st year with a new car as well. Pieces and cars are still be developed. Teams are behind the scenes trying to find that advantage again. As RCR and Chevrolet does so, how much will Reddick be a part of it?
You know they don’t want Reddick to know too much and take what he knows and use it against them with Toyota. The other side of the coin is, they have a real chance here to win more races and even a potential playoff run with Reddick too. If you don’t develop, they’ll fall behind.
Do you really want to punt on the next 53 races for the 8 car? Wouldn’t it be best to showcase this cars’ ability to attract a new driver in Reddick’s place for 2024?
There’s a balance there and until they can find that balance, it’s sure to be awkward.