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NASCAR Mailbox: How Many More Races Will Tyler Reddick Win At RCR?

How many more races is Tyler Reddick going to win before he leaves Richard Childress Racing? Will he be a threat for the NASCAR Cup Series championship in 2022 or ’23? – Nick S., Berlin, Conn.

Oh, he’s going to win again, and win often. I wouldn’t consider him the favorite for the title just yet, but definitely a dark horse pick both this year and next. After scoring his first two wins in the last five races, the sky’s the limit for Tyler Reddick. I predict three to five more victories before the end of 2024.

Notice I didn’t say “the No. 8 team.” But I probably should have.

One unintentional side effect of the Reddick-to-23XI-Racing-in-’24 announcement and resulting contractual ugliness (which pales in comparison to the NTT IndyCar Series’ and Formula 1’s Silly Season drama) is that we’ve started considering the fortunes of the No. 8 car and its driver separately.

Poor RCR, forced to work with a potentially championship-caliber driver coming into his own with a year left on his contract. Poor Reddick, stuck in a fully funded car capable of winning multiple races a year. 

Seriously, come on. 

Yes, RCR and Reddick has always seemed a bit like a marriage of convenience. When the driver announced his defection from JR Motorsports’ NASCAR Xfinity Series program to RCR in October 2018, he said, “Ultimately, my goal is to race on Sundays and I feel that by joining RCR, I can continue to race up front in the Xfinity Series while also learning from one of the top Cup programs in the garage.” That was the deal: RCR got Reddick, Reddick got a shot at the Cup Series. 

That didn’t stop him from winning the Xfinity championship for JRM a month later. Or backing it up with another title for RCR the year after that.

See also
Dropping the Hammer: As the World Turns With RCR

I’m not the first person to say that Reddick has more than a whiff of early-career Kyle Larson about him, with the same aggressive driving style, reliance on the high line to make speed and initial difficulty in cracking victory lane with the second-tier Chevrolet team that offered him a debut. 

Larson won his first Cup race in summer 2016. The very next year, he won four times and challenged for the regular-season title. I see no reason to doubt that Reddick will show a similar trajectory, particularly given the ease with which RCR has adapted to the Next Gen platform.

Yes, Reddick and Childress are stuck with each other, but it’s not like either party can afford to just give up. Winning fixes everything in NASCAR, and I’m certain that, sooner rather than later, everything will be fixed between them. 

Should 23XI re-sign Bubba Wallace for 2023? – Doug G., Greensboro, N.C.

That’s an easy one: Yes. 

In fact, Bubba Wallace and 23XI co-owner Denny Hamlin may be way ahead of me, as rumors abound that an extension to their race-winning partnership is at this point all but a formality. 

Now, I’m well aware that just about everyone will already have an opinion on this and is probably already warming up their tweeting fingers to share that opinion. Wallace attracts that kind of attention.

But we have seen the full potential of neither 23XI nor Wallace, so why start over?

Building a top-tier Cup team from literally nothing in 18 months is a tremendous challenge. If it weren’t for Trackhouse Racing Team’s incredible ascent during that time, we’d all be more willing to give 23XI a break. What that bunch is going through now is growing pains, plain and simple. 

Yes, 23XI has all the money in the world, but while it still tries to staff up, build a new headquarters and figure out how to become a playoff-caliber team all the while its high-profile co-owners’ day jobs draw most of their attention, its first year-and-a-half in the Cup Series stands as tribute to the fact that you truly can’t just spend your way to victory. Money helps of course, but the whole team has to execute constantly, and that’s where 23XI has tended to struggle. 

See also
5 Points to Ponder: The Cup Series Drive for 17 is Alive

In a year when Toyota’s fortunes are feast or famine depending on the track, both 23XI cars have shown top-10, top-five and race-winning speed on par with their Joe Gibbs Racing stablemates. Wallace is just one spot behind Hamlin in regular-season points, and they’re equal on top fives and top 10s. 

While the routineness with which 23XI’s on-loan pit crews have left lug nuts loose has grabbed the most headlines, there have also been crashes, penalties, strategy errors and one failure to meet minimum speed due to a crew miscommunication. Neither the No. 23 nor No. 45 cars have shown the results to back up the speed (and to that effect, neither has the No. 11). 

Perhaps that’s starting to change. The number of pit-road incidents has dropped dramatically since the well-documented crew member swap between the No. 23 and Christopher Bell’s No. 20 ahead of the Atlanta Motor Speedway race last month, and importantly, Wallace is on a string of consecutive top 10s for the first time in his career. At three, it is the longest active top-10 streak in the Cup Series, across three very different racetracks. 

(Just as Kurt Busch suffers concussion-like symptoms and has to miss at least three races. Geez, this team can’t catch a break). 

With as many big-money backers as both Wallace and the team have, watching the No. 23 improve is not exactly the fun underdog story that NASCAR fans love. It’s a big corporation trying to get a handle on logistics and company culture so that it can then out-spend its rivals to win. It’s Ford in Ford v. Ferrari

But you wouldn’t fire all the drivers from Ford’s 1964 effort just because they didn’t win Le Mans. I’d expect both Wallace and 23XI will give each other another year or two to figure it out.

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Bubba started that rumor himself. He isn’t a racer, he’s a driver who plays the game of attrition.

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