Ten days ago, Tyler Reddick‘s future in NASCAR was set in stone.
At least in the short term.
Though Richard Childress had hinted at it earlier this year, Reddick confirmed in the Road America garage prior to qualifying Childress had picked up his option for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.
“Next year’s all taken care of, I’ll be racing with RCR next year,” Reddick said.
Then came the next question, courtesy of Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass.
“Have you started talking to people about 2024?”
The question was barely out of Pockrass’ mouth when Reddick smiled.
— Daniel McFadin (@danielmcfadin) July 12, 2022
Just over 24 hours later, Reddick clinched his first Cup win in 92 starts. It was the first win for RCR by a driver not named Austin Dillon since 2017 and it was the most convincing victory for the organization since Kevin Harvick‘s final season with RCR in 2013.
In victory lane, as Reddick’s son Beau slept, there were cheers and big smiles.
For the first time in a while, the Cup future seemed bright for RCR.
— Daniel McFadin (@danielmcfadin) July 12, 2022
Always in motion, the future is.
It all changed nine days later on Tuesday, July 12 around 12:10 p.m. ET.
That’s when a media availability described as being a midseason status update about Toyota and 23XI Racing turned into the biggest bombshell of the NASCAR season.
“Surprise?” Hamlin asked everyone watching.
“Surprise,” Reddick added.
The news: NASCAR’s newest Cup winner, who Hamlin later described as a “generational talent,” will join 23XI Racing in 2024.
Other than that, there were no further announcements on 23XI’s side of things.
Hamlin and team president Steve Lauletta have no idea who will sponsor Reddick in 2024 or even how many cars it will field that season.
Those are among many of the Toyota organization’s “unanswered questions.”
All that’s known is Reddick recently signed a multi-year deal with a team that’s in its second season.
According to Hamlin, conversations about possibly adding the two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion to his stable had been going on for about a year.
It all started with Reddick “reaching out when we started the team and saying, ‘Love what you’re doing. It look like you guys are really pushing the limits and doing things a little differently,'” Hamlin said. “It was all very casual stuff. … We obviously work together and we do driver intros and you can casually have conversations back and forth. … we’ve been talking for a very, very long time.”
Was there any one instance that stood out to Hamlin that lured him toward the 26-year-old Reddick?
“It’s been every time I’ve been on the racetrack with him. It’s easy to spot talent when you gotta go against it,” Hamlin said. “It made sense to me. You look at the his age, there’s runway that he has. To me … franchise drivers don’t come around that often. 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.”
There are currently 16 months before the end of the 2023 season.
I asked Reddick how he would keep the next year-and-a-half from being “awkward” with the RCR teammates he’s been working with for four years.
“It’s certainly a challenging thing,” Reddick said. “But the one nice thing about it is I feel really strongly about the group that I work with. Everyone on that (No.) 8 team, we’re a very close group. Our bond and the way we work together as a team is unlike anything I’ve had and so in that, I feel very confident.”
Left unanswered was why, despite the confidence, Reddick chose another path for his career going forward. But he did bring up he’d been in a similar situation before, in 2018, when it was announced he would leave JR Motorsports for RCR’s Xfinity Series operation after that season.
Unlike Tuesday, that announcement came at the end of October, weeks before the end of the season and his time with JRM.
“I knew I wasn’t gonna be coming back,” Reddick said. “Richard brought me in. And we’re able to go out there and win a championship with (crew chief) Dave (Elenz) and Dale (Earnhardt Jr.). So I’ve been through this before, and I believed a lot in that team. But I believe that much and more in the team that I currently have. So certainly, it’s not an easy thing to navigate.”
Unfortunately, it was already awkward.
Later on Tuesday, Toyota Racing President David Wilson told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that they “wanted this to kind of rock the industry. We wanted to have some fun with it, and then put it to bed.”
They definitely accomplished the first part.
In the middle of the Reddick press conference, RCR released a statement on its social media channels, which ended by saying the “timing of this announcement could not be any worse.”
— RCR (@RCRracing) July 12, 2022
Reddick said in the press conference he believed “this shouldn’t have been a total shock” to his current team.
“As we were navigating what the future would look like a while ago, we said that after the option was up in ’23 and ’24 and on, we were not sure … if we were going to return and we were going to figure out what lied ahead,” Reddick said. “So this shouldn’t have been a true shock to them. But it’s out there and everyone has the information now and now we all collectively figure out what do we do going from here.”
I later reached out to a RCR executive for further comment.
“We were shocked to hear the news today,” I was told.
Reddick said putting out the announcement now “gives everyone time to figure out what what lies ahead. What is the next step, where do we go from here? So, in my opinion, I feel like it’s better to do it now than in the playoffs. … There’s no reason to to kick the can down the road.”
On SiriusXM, Wilson said a “firewall” will have to be erected between Toyota and Reddick for the next year-and-a-half.
“Just because 23XI have a contract signed with Tyler Reddick does not change the fact that Richard Childress Racing IP, Chevrolet IP is theirs and 23XI and Toyota is ours,” Wilson said. “And ultimately, we are professionals and we’re going to continue to act as professionals and respect those those sensitivities.”
However, Wilson admitted he can’t say “it’s not gonna be awkward.
“That kind of goes with the territory,” he said. “The reality is you can’t do a deal in this sport without it coming out. And then you’re on your back foot and you’re trying to spin messages and you can put yourself into a position of having to be misleading or disingenuous and what I like as much as anything else is we’re avoiding all of that.
“We’re speaking clearly in terms of what the future looks like.”
For Reddick, he is simply glad his plans are “in front of everybody.
“23XI can go to work, myself and RCR go back to work and continue to be as competitive as possible, but also know that the future is set in stone,” Reddick said.
“I know what lies ahead.”
2022 is Daniel McFadin’s ninth year covering NASCAR, with six years spent at NBC Sports. This is his second year writing columns for Frontstretch. His columns won third place in the National Motorsports Press Association awards for 2021. His work can also be found at SpeedSport.com. And you can hear more from him on his podcast.
About the author
Daniel McFadin is a 7-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He's currently a freelancer and lead reporter and editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR show "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" on YouTube and in podcast form.
You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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