Why 23XI Racing Could Replace Joe Gibbs Racing as Top Toyota Team in 2024 if Manufacturer Pulls Off Expected Move
Joe Gibbs Racing didn’t perform like a powerhouse team in 2022. The numbers don’t lie as the organization recorded six total wins all year, or fewer than Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson combined.
Last year, the Next Gen car changed the game, allowing more smaller teams to get in on the action and grab a winning piece of pie. 23XI Racing grabbed a couple of pieces. According to the latest news from Toyota, it appears that reinforcements are on the way in 2024, and with that potential move, 23XI stands to be the biggest beneficiary.
Joe Gibbs Racing struggles in 2022
By Joe Gibbs Racing standards, the 2022 campaign was lackluster at best. Martin Truex Jr. surprisingly went winless in a season for the first time since 2014. But he wasn’t alone in his struggles.
Kyle Busch backed into his single win of the season on the Bristol dirt and made an early exit from the playoffs. The two-time champion statistically had his worst year since 2014.
While Denny Hamlin won twice, he’d be the first one to admit his season was a rollercoaster of a ride, with inconsistency the one constant throughout the year. Both Hamlin and Busch will also be remembered for their disqualifications at Pocono.
Christopher Bell was unquestionably the organization’s highlight with three wins, a pair of them in the playoffs when he won in spectacular walk-off fashion, advancing to the next round each time. He finished third in the final standings.
Toyota announces big changes likely coming in 2024
Toyota joined the Cup Series in 2007. Joe Gibbs Racing came into the fold a year later. Now, 15 years later, the manufacturer remains the smallest fleet with just six cars — four at JGR and two at 23XI.
That number is going to increase in the near future, according to Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson.
“We’ve got some good irons in the fire now,” Wilson told NBC Sports at Daytona International Speedway over the weekend. “What was once a very effective strategy to amass our resources across fewer cars, with the marginalization of the areas that we have to play in and the flattening out of the playing field, we definitely need some more help.”
Wilson said the Next Gen car, which has leveled the playing field as evidenced by the 19 different winners in 2022, including an increased number of smaller teams making it to Victory Lane, has made the manufacturer reconsider its philosophy. Adding more teams (nine to 10 total cars) is the goal moving forward.
“We’re talking to a lot of the incumbents,” Wilson admitted. “It’s a very dynamic time right now. If you’re a team, you want to have an association with a manufacturer. Again, even in spite of the new car, the flattening of the playing field, there’s still something about having an alliance and partnership. The good news is there’s a lot of interest. The bad news is you don’t have to worry about Penske or Hendrick.”
23XI Racing would be biggest beneficiary
Penske and Hendrick are locked in with Ford and Chevrolet. That likely won’t ever change. But when it comes to incumbents putting more Toyotas on the track, there’s one obvious choice — 23XI Racing.
The third-year organization and JGR affiliate has two full-time teams going into 2023 with a third car expected to be available to run on a part-time basis if Kurt Busch gets medical clearance to return to the track.
Denny Hamlin was ambitious from day one about growing the organization and in three years, he’s followed the plan. Fielding two full-time cars in 2024 is not that big of a stretch.
There will likely be another current non-Toyota team or two making the switch to the manufacturer, but it’s a safe bet, based on what’s happened recently, that 23XI is the organization most likely to add to its fleet in a move that could make it the top Toyota team in the garage.