Kurt Busch opens up on impact of signing Tyler Reddick

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LOUDON, NH — As one of the few drivers over 40 to race full-time at NASCAR’s top level, 2004 Cup Series champion Kurt Busch is not immune to the rumors of retirement.

They’ve popped up over the past few years, almost a yearly tradition at this point, but here he’s still winning races and looking just as competitive just weeks short of his 44th birthday.

Naturally, with news this week that rising superstar Tyler Reddick had signed with Busch’s 23XI Racing team – currently a two-car operation with Bubba Wallace driving the No. 23 Toyota – the rumor mill has once again triggered that Busch could be the odd man out before Reddick joins the franchise for the 2024 season. Team co-owner Denny Hamlin strongly reiterated when announcing that Busch would have a seat for as long as he wishes (and has a “comfortable office job” waiting for him when he decides to hang up) but a lot can change over a year and a half.

RELATED: 23XI signs Reddick for 2024 | Weekend schedule

So far, nothing has changed. In fact, it might even have opened up new “options” for himself and 23XI.

“It’s all on the same timeline,” Busch said Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Ambetter 301 (3 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). “For me, it’s just now that it’s out in the open, things that we’ve been working on behind the scenes, part of the process of which drivers we were evaluating and communicating with Toyota and their development program as well. so it’s good to have those options, that’s the key as well as the options part of that. That’s what he’s doing with the sponsorship, that’s what he’s doing with Toyota’s involvement, and just how we develop certain things and the infrastructure behind the scenes. That’s a key move. And that’s what we’re trying to do, is to do it as a team.

“It’s always the same, it’s a question of which is the right option. And when all the signs point to this or that, the big thing I have right now is a lot of respect from the race team. Steve Lauletta, MJ, Denny, they all said I had a seat as long as I wanted. It’s so precious to me. Just… it makes me smile, want to run harder and work harder. So there are still a lot of options that we are looking at.

23XI will have to make a decision at some point though. No car numbers or sponsors were part of Reddick’s announcement, just that the Michael Jordan/Hamlin co-owned organization had signed a “franchise driver”. There were no indications of expansion either.

This is extremely Wallace is unlikely to be ousted for Reddick, and Busch, based on what Hamlin said, can dictate his future. There’s a possibility, of course, that the team will expand to three cars to accommodate its newest acquisition, but that’s a bit of a tall order for an organization still working to find its sea feet in its early days. It’s only its second year in existence, after all, and Hamlin himself has said many times that it will take years to get to where he wants the team to be.

So relying on Busch stepping away after next season to station himself in front of a laptop instead of a steering wheel seems less likely at this point with the way Busch continues to operate. A win at Kansas Speedway earlier this year temporarily locked him in the playoffs, and he’s been sporting the ‘Magic Mile’ so far this weekend, claiming a P3 spot in Saturday’s qualifying session. .

MORE: Kurt Busch through the years | All his Cup Series victories

It’s just a matter of, basically, how long he wants to keep doing this.

“I have to call Mark Martin and check where the fountain of youth is,” Busch said when asked if he wanted to run into his 50s. “It’s just…it’s respect.” And that’s the opportunity that surrounds us with so many different variables, the manufacturer filling in sponsors for me and having a place like this to be a part of when I’m done racing. It’s important to me too. So there are just a lot of options right now. We just don’t have all the right answers.

“I don’t have (an age) in my head, again, I sat down and made lists and made options and thoughts, pros and cons, when I was going from Roush in Penske, and when I was leaving Penske, and just all the listings.

“The bottom line is if the phone keeps ringing, you keep running.”

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