23XI Racing is midway through the 2021 season, but the NASCAR team co-owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin is looking toward the future. The Athletic has learned that the racing team will expand to two cars in 2022 and will target Kurt Busch in free agency.
According to The Athletic’s Jordan Bianchi, the former Cup Series champion is the leading candidate to join Bubba Wallace in the 23XI Racing stable. Busch is in the final year of his deal with Chip Ganassi Racing and will become a free agent after November’s championship race in Phoenix.
There are no discussions currently taking place, per The Athletic. Busch has specific language in his contract that prevents him from speaking to other organizations prior to the summer. The clause will reportedly expire in July and set the stage for some intriguing conversations.
“We haven’t even started talks — that’s all summer-month stuff,” Busch said, per The Athletic. “And with Chip [Ganassi] in Indy and us down here, just — it’s always like, once we get past Memorial Day is when everybody starts talking.”
Busch Has a History of Success at NASCAR’s Top Level
The veteran driver is in the midst of his 22nd Cup Series season (21st full-time) and is nearing the end of his career. However, he continues to be competitive each week. In his career, Busch has racked up 32 Cup Series wins and 151 top-five finishes, a list that includes the Daytona 500. He also won the championship in 2004.
Busch’s most recent win took place during the 2020 playoffs. He and the Cup Series drivers headed to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a crucial Round of 12 race. He started ninth at his hometown track and then held off Matt DiBenedetto and Denny Hamlin to take the checkered flag and move on to the Round of eight.
Given his experience and ability to still fight for top-five finishes, Busch could provide veteran leadership to 23XI and Wallace. He has raced for multiple teams in his career and dealt with a wide variety of highs and lows. More importantly, he is a proven winner at several of NASCAR’s tracks.
Busch Previously Hinted at Retirement
Prior to the season-opening Daytona 500, Busch turned heads with a special video created in collaboration with Monster Energy. He took the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro to the Florida Keys and shut down some bridges. He looked back on his career while driving high speeds and interacting with special guests, such as Vanilla Ice and Rob Gronkowski.
The nine-minute clip, “Shifting Gears,” started with Fox Sports’ announcer Michael Waltrip “breaking the news” that Busch will retire at the end of the 2021 season. The former Cup Series champion watched the news segment at a bar in Mathon, FLA before climbing into his stock car and taking off down the street. Though he first accepted a video call from Gronkowski, who told him not to retire.
“Is retirement for me? Am I ready to retire? I won it all. I’ve done it all. I’m so very satisfied,” Busch said in narration. He then flew off into the sunset on a private jet while saying to “put a stamp on” his career.
Busch later explained to the Associated Press that he hadn’t yet made a decision about his career and that he was talking to both Chevrolet and Monster Energy. He explained that the video gave him the opportunity to shut down some roads and drive through the Florida Keys at 200 mph.
The former Cup champion has not provided insight into what he will do after the 2021 season comes to an end. However, Bianchi’s report makes it likely that Busch will make the leap to a Toyota Camry TRD and become teammates with Wallace.