Tyler Reddick’s Move to 23XI Racing Likely Won’t Pay Off — At Least Anytime Soon
In NASCAR, just as with life in general, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. That doesn’t typically stop Cup Series drivers from switching teams if they feel like a better opportunity is available, however.
So it was back in mid-July when Tyler Reddick revealed that he’d be leaving what appeared to be a really good situation at Richard Childress Racing for a ride at 23XI Racing, the organization co-owned and co-founded by Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan.
While Reddick’s intention on the day of his announcement was to fulfill the terms of his contract with RCR, where he’d agreed to race through 2023, that plan changed in October when 23XI driver Kurt Busch announced his retirement from full-time racing, opening up a seat for Reddick a year earlier than anticipated.
Once 23XI bought out the remaining year on Reddick’s contract with RCR, it was official: Reddick was heading to 23XI in 2023 to replace Busch in the No. 45 Toyota Camry.
While Reddick certainly had his reasons for deciding to pursue a move in the first place, it’s hard to imagine him having a better season in 2023 at 23XI than the one he enjoyed in 2022 at RCR. In fact, the 26-year-old native of Corning, California, is likely to take a step back in his career progression — at least temporarily.
2022 wasn’t a bed of roses for Tyler Reddick, but he still set personal records
By virtually any objective measure, Tyler Reddick enjoyed quite a successful year in 2022. Not only did the two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion score his first career Cup Series win, which came in early July at Road America, but he backed up that victory with an additional triumph at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and Texas Motor Speedway.
Although Reddick was ultimately eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs, his early exit from championship contention was due to little more than rotten racing luck. Had the proverbial ball bounced his way, Reddick could’ve advanced as far as the Championship 4 and even won the championship — despite being a lame-duck driver.
In fact, two of Reddick’s three wins came after the news of his imminent departure from RCR, so he continued to compete at a high level even as team owner Richard Childress went out of his way to make it known that he wasn’t pleased that Reddick announced his plans to leave RCR with little notice.
Along with earning the first three wins of his Cup Series career, Reddick finished the 2022 season with a career-high 10 top-five finishes, three poles, and 503 laps led in his No. 8 Chevrolet. So impressive were Reddick’s results that they convinced two-time Cup Series champion Kyle Busch to look RCR’s way and agree to drive the No. 8 car in 2023 after failing to renegotiate a contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing.
So even though Reddick’s departure from RCR was a bit messy and complicated, it doesn’t take away from the fact that he had an amazing year on the race track — so amazing that it made 23XI come calling for his services, even before he’d picked up his second and third win.
Don’t expect Tyler Reddick to come out of the gate swinging with 23XI Racing
Tyler Reddick certainly had his reasons for choosing a future with 23XI Racing over Richard Childress Racing. In addition to likely reaping a rather hefty pay raise, Reddick was attracted to the idea of racing for a team that has a close technical alliance with the powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing organization, and he probably harbors hopes of sliding over into one of the JGR cars in the next two or three years — especially considering that his new boss, Denny Hamlin, and JGR’s Martin Truex Jr. can’t be all that far away from retirement.
Of course, Reddick also certainly doesn’t mind competing for an organization that has a six-time NBA champion and arguably the greatest basketball player of all time as its co-owner and frontman. Being closely aligned with the popular Jordan Brand is bound to make Reddick all the more recognizable and marketable, perhaps even beyond NASCAR.
But what about the actual competition side of things? Will Reddick have even faster cars in Year One at 23XI than he had in Year Three with RCR? In all probability, the answer is no.
Sure, Reddick might win a race or two and qualify for the playoffs, but matching or surpassing his numbers from 2022 is going to be a tall order for the simple reason that, as an organization, 23XI is still in a developmental stage. Oh sure, the company won a rain-shortened race with Bubba Wallace in its debut season of 2021 and then added two more victories this past season — one with Wallace, the other with Kurt Busch.
But due to the unfortunate timing of Wallace’s wins — which both came after the regular season — and the season-ending concussion that Busch suffered at Pocono in July, 23XI has yet to put a driver in the playoffs in the company’s two-year existence. Are we really to expect Reddick to be as consistently fast in his first season with 23XI as he was in his final year at RCR? It’s possible but highly improbable, if for no other reason than that 23XI still has a way to go to catch up with the sport’s elite organizations: Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Team Penske, and, to a lesser extent, RCR.
Keep in mind that RCR won twice the number of Cup Series races in 2022 that 23XI did, so it wouldn’t be fair to expect Reddick’s arrival at 23XI to single-handedly close that gap — especially when RCR is getting one of NASCAR’s best drivers of all time in Kyle Busch. No, in all likelihood, Reddick is at least a season away from wowing anyone with his performance at 23XI — and it could take even longer, given the company’s continued growing pains and status as a relative newcomer to NASCAR’s premier division.
Eventually, though, the grass may be greener for Reddick at 23XI. It’s just going to take some time. And how much is anyone’s best guess.