Denny Hamlin’s NASCAR Gamble Paid Off Quickly

Tyler Reddick

Getty Tyler Reddick celebrates a win at Circuit of the Americas.

23XI Racing owner Denny Hamlin made a big gamble in 2022 by chasing after Tyler Reddick and signing him to a deal. That decision quickly paid off with an early celebration in Victory Lane.

Reddick took over the No. 45 Toyota Camry at the start of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season, and he experienced significant struggles early with two DNFs and a 15th-place finish in the first three races. However, Reddick has since turned in three straight top-five finishes.

This stretch includes a dominant win at Circuit of the Americas in which he led 41 laps, won Stage 2, and kept the No. 45 moving in the right direction during several chaotic restarts.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s why I went after him as early as I did,” Hamlin said during his post-race press conference. “I wanted to get the jump on all the other teams because I knew he was going to be the most coveted free agent in a very, very long time. That’s why I got the jump on it. It cost me a lot of money to do it, but it pays dividends.

“You have to have that driver that you feel like can carry you to championships and wins for decades. I think we have that guy. It’s not going to stop at road courses. Dirt racing, short tracks, speedways, he’s got what it takes on every racetrack we go to.”

Hamlin’s Big Move Took Place Before a Major Change

Tyler Reddick

GettyTyler Reddick (left) poses with his family & Kurt Busch (right) at COTA.

Hamlin made waves in the summer of 2022 by bringing Reddick into a Zoom meeting with reporters as a surprise guest. They stunned everyone in the industry on July 12 by announcing that the California native had signed a deal to join 23XI Racing.

The original plan was for Reddick to finish out his contract with Richard Childress Racing and then join 23XI Racing for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season. However, the situation changed drastically after July 24. This is the day that Kurt Busch announced he would miss the Pocono race due to a concussion.

As the 2022 season progressed, there were extensive discussions about Reddick’s contract status. One reason is that Busch had not yet received clearance to return from the concussion he sustained during a crash in qualifying. The other reason is that Kyle Busch was becoming less and less likely to return to Joe Gibbs Racing.

Prior to the playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, veteran reporter Lee Spencer broke the news that 23XI Racing had bought out Reddick’s contract at RCR and that he would make a move one year earlier than expected. The team then confirmed this news with a press conference.

Reddick Has Several Opportunities To Add Wins

Reddick went winless during his first two full-time seasons in the NASCAR Cup Series. He came close on multiple occasions with six top-five finishes and three runner-ups. He also made the playoffs during the 2021 season.

Reddick finally reached Victory Lane during the 2022 Cup Series season. He broke through at Road America on July 3 and then he added his second career win later in the summer at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Reddick’s third trip to Victory Lane took place on an oval track. He started fourth overall at Texas Motor Speedway in the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro and he led 70 of the 334 laps. Reddick ultimately built up a lead of more than one second over Joey Logano, and he parked the Chevrolet Camaro in Victory Lane.

Based on Hamlin’s comments at Circuit of the Americas, the expectation is that Reddick will win several more races in the No. 45 Toyota Camry. The four-time Cup Series winner has this same expectation as he plans to bring more speed to other tracks on the schedule.

“Things that we were strong with today, hopefully, will apply in some ways to those other places,” Reddick said in his post-race press conference. “In no way do we get super comfortable or content with how we do. We’re going to: How could we be better, what things can we clean up. I definitely could have done things better at the end of this race on restarts.

“Certainly to go from where we were at the test in January, the tire test here, how we stacked up against the 8 car, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric in the 2, to make the gains that we did, make our cars better, it was certainly a really good sign.”

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