NASCAR Cup Series
All the Ways Atlanta Affected the Cup Series Championship Picture
Jul 11, 2022
The revelation that Tyler Reddick would move to 23XI Racing in 2024 was a theatrical performance right out of a professional wrestling scene.
Reddick walked through the figurative curtain to the complete surprise to those in attendance, who in this case, happened to be the attending media in a teleconference who thought they were on the line to cover a standard-issue team leadership Q&A.
Denny Hamlin and team president Steve Lauletta played the part, answering questions about the escalating conflict with Ross Chastain, pit crew changes and the race on Sunday at Atlanta when a familiar name wanted to join the conference.
Moderating the conference was Toyota’s Lisa Kennedy, who let the Richard Childress Racing driver into the room and suggested he might have joined the wrong call on Tuesday afternoon, when Hamlin interjected with the theatrical climax.
"Actually, I don't think he did," Hamlin said. "I'd like to announce to the media, formally announce to the media that Tyler Reddick a future member of the 23XI and Toyota Racing family starting in 2024."
But that wasn't the last surprise as Reddick then slid into Hamlin's screen, sitting next to his future boss to answer questions about his future plans. Simultaneously, you could see reporters on the call expeditiously sending out tweets and typing out their ledes.
They've been had!
It was a swerve to continue the professional wrestling vernacular associated with this teleconference.
Ever since winning back-to-back Xfinity Series championships in 2018 and 2019 for JR Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing, and then making the playoffs last season with the latter, Reddick had positioned himself as the most sought-after free agent in a decade come late next season.
Childress told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio earlier this month that it wanted to extend Reddick past 2023 but likely wouldn’t be able to match the modern powerhouses of the sport.
"We’ve got another year and then we’ll see how we do and if he wants to come back," Childress said then. "Wins help but when people come and offer him the moon, you know I don’t own the moon and some of them do."
Hamlin and Jordan meanwhile, seemingly could offer the moon, and made their move without even knowing what their combined program would look like by the 2024 season.
"I didn’t know anything else that goes along with that," Hamlin said. "Honestly, there are no hidden secrets here. We do not know who the sponsor will be. We do not know what car it is. All we know is we wanted him, and we made sure we planted our feet deep in the ground to make sure Tyler had an opportunity with this race team, and we made it happen."
Childress had a team option on Reddick for the 2023 season and had already exercised it before he won on July 4 at Elkhart Lake. But Reddick said he wanted to go forward with a public announcement now on July 12 to give both 23XI and Richard Childress Racing time to figure out a plan over the next calendar year and beyond.
"I feel like it gives everyone time to figure out what lies ahead," Reddick said. "I feel like it's better to do it now than in the playoffs. There's no reason to kick the can down the road."
Reddick also expressed conviction that the decision to join 23XI and reveal it today shouldn’t come as a ‘total shock’ to his current organization. He also expects to have two chances to win a championship in 2022 and 2023.
"We're going to see it through together, and we're going to go out and make the most of it," Reddick said. "We're going to try and grow together."
23XI, which is co-owned by Hamlin and sports ic
on Michael Jordan, currently fields cars for Bubba Wallace and Kurt Busch. Hamlin says he doesn’t know if Reddick will take over a currently existing car or a yet to be created third entry, which would surely require the team to procure and ownership charter to field but did say ‘all options are out there.’
Hamlin added that Wallace was part of the organization’s long-term plans and that they wanted Busch to pilot the No. 45 as long as he wants to.
"Once he's done driving, he's going to have a nice cushy office job at 23XI," Hamlin said.
Hamlin says that Reddick will be an important part of establishing 23XI has a bonafide consistent championship threat within the next five years and well into the future. Hamlin said he first checked with Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson for his blessing to pursue Reddick and that request was granted.
Wilson is excited to add Reddick to the fold come 2024.
"From a Toyota perspective, I talk all the time about the challenge of week to week versus the focus on the horizon, and planning forward and being strategic," Wilson said. "This announcement today is all about that strategic perspective. So, we’re delighted to have Tyler in our future.
"One thing whether you know Tyler or you just watch him – how he holds himself, how he races, he is a good dude and he’s got the character that meshes well with us. We’re honored and flattered that he would consider being a part of our team. And this is a direct reflection on Michael, Denny, Steve, the 23XI organization begin well ahead of schedule, and reflects our long-term commitment to their success."
But at the end of the day, Hamlin has raced against Reddick for two years and came away so impressed with the skillset and pedigree that he wasn’t going to wait until it made sense to pursue his guy. He just went for it.
"I watched him, I raced against him, I wanted him, and I got him."
The organization has already won races, at Talladega last year with Wallace, and at Kansas with Busch this spring, so now attention has turned to winning the Bill France Cup.