By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
His teammate, Austin Dillon, quipped on just how awkward it would be for everyone.
“If you’ve worked with Tyler Reddick at all, it’s always awkward,” Dillon said. “So it’s nothing new. Tyler is a good dude, me and him have a good relationship. He’s just different.”
Austin Dillon on Tyler Reddick leaving RCR
Austin Dillon says he has a good relationship with Tyler Reddick and has been in no discussions about RCR wanting a change in the Reddick car for 2023.
Dillon said he congratulated Reddick on his new deal, but the fallout of the decision dominated the conversation in the NASCAR garage at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this past weekend.
RCR had already picked up Reddick’s option for 2023 but had not signed him to a new deal as it worked to find sponsors that might be willing to lock in Reddick for the next several years. Reddick, considered one of the top young drivers as a two-time Xfinity champion and it just being a matter of experience before he contends for Cup titles, opted to take the 23XI Racing offer to secure his future when no long-term deal was presented to him.
The ripple effects of the decision are endless.
“It’s probably more awkward in the beginning than it really is once you get racing,” Kevin Harvick said. “Right now, the hard part is answering all the questions and getting through that side of things.”
Kevin Harvick on Reddick leaving RCR
Based on his previous experience under similar circumstances, Kevin Harvick offers his thoughts on what Tyler Reddick will deal with over the next 16 months.
Harvick can relate to Reddick. Late in the 2012 season, he told RCR that 2013 would be his last year with the team before moving to Stewart-Haas Racing. He won the weekend the news broke and then four times the following year, although he nearly lost the ride when he made heat-of-the-moment disparaging comments about Dillon, who is the grandson of Childress.
“In a situation like that, you probably almost work harder to make it as good as possible just because of the fact that your reputation is important to be able to walk away from something like that from a business side of things as you go forward,” Harvick said.
The most obvious question is whether there is a way for RCR and Reddick to part ways after this season. It would take a lot of work to get that done, and the bigger question is would it be worth it without a driver of Reddick’s caliber likely readily available. Yes, there are some bruised egos, but Reddick gives the team a chance to win and make the playoffs.
A team’s finish in the final standings determines earnings for the next three years under NASCAR’s current payout plan. So it makes smart business sense to finish as high as possible.
Childress wasn’t at New Hampshire, but Reddick and 23XI Racing co-owner Denny Hamlin both said they have had no discussions about trying to get Reddick to 23XI Racing a year early.
Reddick said he has not been asked to see if any team could take him next year.
“I haven’t thought about that,” Reddick said. “I’m going to go out here and do what I do every weekend for this team. … I have every intention of finishing out everything I agreed to do with RCR.”
Tyler Reddick on possibly leaving RCR at end of 2022
Tyler Reddick says he has had no discussions with anyone at RCR about the possibility of him leaving after this season.
Dillon also said he had heard none of that talk.
“From our side, we’ve got to think of it as a business decision on anything that we do,” Dillon said.
There isn’t any room at 23XI in 2023 anyway, as the organization already has its drivers in Kurt Busch and Bubba Wallace. The announcement made it seem as though Busch likely will retire after his two-year deal ends in 2023. Busch had talked about possibly retiring before this season and then opted for the two-year deal at 23XI. He said this doesn’t change his timeline on that decision.
“It’s a matter of what is the right option,” Busch said. “And when all signs point towards this or that, the great thing that I have right now is a lot of respect from the race team. … They’ve all said that I have a seat as long as I want it.
“That’s so valuable to me. It makes me smile and want to race harder and work harder. So there’s still plenty of options that we’re looking at it.”
If Busch opts to continue to drive, 23XI Racing would need to purchase a charter as Wallace’s spot seems secure for at least a couple more years.
Kurt Busch: Reddick signing doesn’t change timeline
Kurt Busch says that 23XI Racing signing Tyler Reddick starting in 2024 doesn’t change his timeline on a decision whether to retire following the 2023 season.
With Reddick off the market, the ripple effects go beyond RCR and 23XI. It means that other drivers who are free agents now might be in higher demand now that teams won’t be worried about needing money in hopes of signing Reddick. Kyle Busch still doesn’t have a contract for Joe Gibbs Racing, which is trying to find a sponsor to replace M&M’s.
“It doesn’t matter how soon or how late it gets done — until there’s an announcement that somebody else is driving the 18 car, I feel like I still have a seat,” Busch said.
Busch confirmed that talks with other teams have picked up.
“Anything’s possible,” he said. “There’s all kinds of different things that can play out. It’s just a matter what does.”
Joe Gibbs indicated that the team continues to work on getting Busch signed.
“We’re working really hard to try and get things done, and it is hard,” Gibbs said. “You’ve got to put a lot in place to make things work out, and we’re working as hard as we can. We’re going after it in a number of different directions.”
Kyle Busch on future plans
Kyle Busch says until someone else is announced to drive the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 car, he feels he has a seat there.
It also could mean that teams take another look at Erik Jones, who said he is close to signing a deal to remain at Petty GMS Racing. Petty GMS already has announced that Jones’ teammate, Ty Dillon, won’t return. Noah Gragson is considered the leading candidate for that ride.
Those decisions tend to align with sponsorships, and this is the time of year when sponsorships are up for renewal. That is probably what makes it tough for RCR.
“Obviously it puts the current team in a tough spot, just because of the fact that they probably didn’t get most of their sponsorship stuff done because [the Reddick announcement] happened so early,” Harvick said. “Usually, that stuff happens in August, September, November. From the team side, that’ll probably be the most difficult part.”
While drivers can be nervous about their futures at this time, Reddick just has to wonder what will happen.
“He made it real adamant that me and him are going to go out there and push each other the rest of our time together, try and win races and get it back to RCR,” Dillon said.
“And that’s what the main thing I was focused on — trying to make sure … all the men and women back at the shop that put in all the hard work, they know that we’re focused on winning the championship with both these cars.”
Denny Hamlin on hiring Tyler Reddick for ’24
Denny Hamlin says Tyler Reddick’s decision to join 23XI Racing in 2024 gives the organization a sense of legitimacy.
Thinking out loud
With the threat of potentially more winners than playoff spots this season, there has been the suggestion of not limiting the number of playoff spots if there are more than 16 winners during the regular season.
The thought is that the first round could eliminate as many drivers as needed to get to 12. If there are 18 winners, then six get eliminated in the opening round.
That isn’t a horrible idea, but the drama of whether someone with a win might not make the playoffs actually adds some interest to the regular season. It’s another reason why drivers with one win would continue to push throughout the regular season.
Playoffs in all sports are designed to create a sense of urgency and weed out those who don’t perform during the regular season. A one-win year in a season with parity should require some consistency when it comes to points.
So while the idea has merit, let’s keep the playoff field capped at 16. That system has worked for the past several years, and it doesn’t need to be tweaked.
Stat of the day
Fourteen winners through the first 20 Cup races in the season is tied for the most all time.
They said it
“I felt like we were right on the verge of winning — and then the last couple weeks I felt like we were pretty far away. But here we are today.” — Christopher Bell after his win at New Hampshire
Bob Pockrass has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s. He joined FOX Sports in 2019 following stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bobpockrass. Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!
Get more from NASCAR Cup Series Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more.