Race Weekend Central

NASCAR Mailbox: What Does Kyle Busch News Mean for Tyler Reddick?

What does next year look like for Tyler Reddick in light of Kyle Busch’s move [to the No. 8 for Richard Childress Racing for 2023]? – @Walker_Skeeter

It depends entirely on what Kurt Busch’s doctors say. 

Should the elder Busch brother get the go-ahead from the docs and return to the No. 45 team for 23XI Racing full time in 2023, Reddick’s in a bit of a pickle. 

Yes, Richard Childress confirmed that his team will field three chartered cars in 2023, one each for Reddick, Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon, but he was also very clear in the announcement that Busch is going to the No. 8 with Randall Burnett as the crew chief. Reddick will be placed in a third chartered entry to be announced at a later date. 

So if Kurt Busch comes back as planned, Reddick is going to drive a third RCR car. Let’s call it No. 29 for now. 

RCR could buy a third charter for Reddick, commit to running the No. 29 in the long term and hang that 2024 NASCAR Cup Series seat as a carrot on a stick in front of its NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers Austin Hill and Sheldon Creed

Or, more likely, RCR will lease that charter for a single year, run the car with personnel scavenged from one of Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Camping World Truck Series teams and condemn Reddick to a year racing RCR’s dedicated R&D car. Think 2016-Clint-Bowyer levels of afterthought. 

Regardless, Reddick will come out swinging whenever he gets to 23XI.

But “whenever” is not necessarily 2024. Even if Kurt Busch can’t come back next season (which would be a truly unfortunate way to say goodbye to a champion), Richard Childress still has to make every effort to honor the letter of his contract with Reddick.

Toyota may well find itself needing to replace two Busch brothers in one Silly Season, and, as talented as he may be, Ty Gibbs can’t drive two race cars. 23XI will be licking their chops to bring Reddick on board, and all they’ll have to do is buy him out from RCR. 

Make no mistake, in either of these situations, the real winner, at least in 2023, is Childress. He’s just signed the biggest free agent since … well, Kyle Busch in 2008 and can keep the ultra-fast Reddick as backup, or he’ll get a big payday from Toyota to not buy a third charter.

If it isn’t clear by now, RCR might be an old team, but it’s ready for a new era. Unfortunately for Reddick, he won’t be a part of it.

Any thoughts on Bubba [Wallace] and [Christopher] Bell both seeming to enjoy tremendous success after their pit crew shakeup? – @Puffadda

Oh, I always have thoughts.

Over the last ten races, Christopher Bell has an average finish of 10.9 and Bubba Wallace leads the series with an average of 10.1. That’s compared to 14.9 and 22.0, respectively, in the first 18 events. Over the stretch, both have scored wins and four top-five finishes, culminating on Sunday (Sept. 11) at Kansas Speedway with Wallace’s victory and Bell seizing the points lead to lock himself into the next round of the playoffs. 

Frankly, any relation to the crewmember swap between the No. 20 and then-No.23 team is coincidental. After all, just like in the spring race at Kansas, Wallace had to make a second pit stop for a loose wheel. The difference was that this time he recovered to win. 

While at least the now-No. 45 team has benefitted from faster pit stops since its front tire carrier and changer (Jackson Gibbs and Nick McBeath) were swapped with Bell’s (Houston Stamper and Joe Crossen) ahead of the Atlanta Motor Speedway race in July, I think the explanation for both teams taking a step forward comes from an unusual source: Jeff Burton.

When Burton left what was then Roush Racing for RCR midway through 2004, the Virginia driver claimed it would take “18 months” for the pairing to truly gel. Burton struggled in 2004 and 2005 before a huge leap forward in competitiveness saw the veteran compete for the championship for three straight years between 2006-08.

See also
Only Yesterday: Jeff Burton's Renaissance at Richard Childress Racing

Counting from January, the crew swap came exactly 18 months after Bell and Wallace joined Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI, respectively. 

While there are certainly exceptions to the rule, it takes time for partnerships to flourish in NASCAR, particularly when the rest of the field is so competitive. Neither Bell nor Wallace has the level of win-in-any-kind-of-car-any-day-of-the-week experience or confidence as 2021 champion and team-swapper Kyle Larson, so to expect them to bring the same results on the same time frame was perhaps unrealistic. 

But here we are in mid-September 2022, and statistically, the two best drivers in NASCAR are Wallace and Bell. There’s no way around it: due to 2022 weirdness and the 23XI number swap, each of them leads a Cup Series championship. That’s not just the work of the pit crews. That’s the whole team — driver, crew chief, pit crew and everybody else doing a better job than the other 35 (or … I guess 34) teams out there.

Share this article

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com