Tyler Reddick has entered the chat. Quite literally.
Moments after unexpectedly joining a Toyota Racing Development media teleconference, 23XI Racing co-owner Denny Hamlin announced Reddick as the newest addition to 23XI, where Reddick will compete in 2024.
Reddick currently drives the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, which has reportedly picked up its 2023 option on the two-time Xfinity Series champion who just won his first Cup race on July 3 at Road America.
“Surprised?” asked Hamlin.
The deal links Reddick to a multi-year contract starting in 2024, 23XI Racing President Steve Lauletta confirmed during the conference. Reddick remains with RCR through 2023.
Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, was blunt in describing his pursuit of Reddick, who has already notched a career-high five top fives in 2022.
“I watched him, I raced against him. I wanted him and I got him,” Hamlin said. “And I didn’t know anything else that goes along with that. And honestly, there’s 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 that Tyler had an opportunity with this race team and we made it happen.”
Reddick’s 2023 return to RCR was important from his perspective, closing out what he started after joining the team’s Xfinity program in 2018, winning a title and advancing to the Cup Series full-time starting in 2020.
But the 26-year-old is focusing on his future and knew where he wanted to go.
“I feel like it’s just the way my mind works. I’m always thinking about what lies ahead,” Reddick said. “I just think it’s important to always be thinking about everything, short-term and long-term. So for me, just those gears never really stopped turning, you know, I’m always thinking about what, what is the smartest move with the lies ahead in the years to come.”
Hamlin, a 48-time Cup Series winner, noted Reddick’s interest in 23XI Racing ahead of its maiden season in 2021, praising the team’s outlook as the No. 23 Toyota hit the track starting last year with driver Bubba Wallace.
“(He said), ‘I love what you’re doing. It looks like you guys are really pushing the limits and doing things a little differently. And it’s good to see,’” Hamlin recalled. “And from that point, you just start some conversations. And obviously, I’ve looked at his talents for a very long time. And after a while, I realized that I started asking those kind of important questions about his future. And then I asked obviously, permission from (Toyota) that can I pursue this individual, and they wholeheartedly agreed that this is a good direction for us.”
The signing comes a full 19 months ahead of the anticipated start of the 2024 season. Hamlin saw no reason to wait to sign someone of Reddick’s caliber.
“Franchise drivers don’t come around that often,” Hamlin said. “And so if there’s ever one that you feel like you can grab, you go after it. And you do whatever it takes to make that happen. And then you work on the details later.”
Reddick admitted he “definitely” believed other programs were interested in hiring him whenever he became available. But the opportunity ahead at 23XI Racing – a team which has placed both cars in Victory Lane within the company’s inaugural 18 months – was too appealing to pass up.
“Just seeing where 23XI has started and where they’re going, it’s been very obvious to me that the ramp that they’re on and how they’re improving, it was very exciting for me. And I wanted to be a part of that,” Reddick said. “Also … just talking to Denny and getting to watch and see the direction the team was going, where Toyota is and their commitment to the sport, to NASCAR, to this team, they’re all very exciting things, and I really wanted to be a part of it. And that heavily influenced my decision.”
Currently at 23XI are Wallace and 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch, who won at Kansas Speedway in May. Busch is in the midst of his 23rd year as a Cup competitor and turns 44 years old in August. Hamlin noted no plans to expand to three teams at this time, but also backs Busch’s future – as a driver or otherwise.
“As long as Kurt wants to be a race car driver, we want to have him. So that’s pretty much the end of that,” Hamlin said. “And then once he’s done driving, he’s going to have a nice cushy office job at 23XI. So he’s going to be part of our future well beyond his driving days.
“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. If he does, then we’re going to build a car for him.”
In the meantime, one aspect of 23XI Racing’s future is certain: Tyler Reddick will drive for the team in 2024.
Article by Zach Sturniolo for NASCAR.com