Long: 23XI Racing avoids free agent frenzy for Tyler Reddick with early signing

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Denny Hamlin celebrated 23XI Racing’s announcement that it had signed Tyler Reddick for the 2024 season by posting a chess piece on his Twitter account.

Hamlin’s tweet inferred that his team plays chess while others in the sport play checkers.

“We’ve said from the beginning that 23XI Racing wants to be a different kind of a race team and that’s a forward-thinking team, that’s an aggressive team, it’s an innovative team,” said Steve Lauletta, the organization’s president.

Tuesday’s announcement was a brilliant move. The fast action by 23XI Racing and Toyota avoided a potential frenzy for Reddick next year.

His talent, age (Reddick turns 27 in January) and success, which includes Xfinity championships with two different teams, and his first Cup win earlier this month, would have made Reddick a highly sought free agent.

At least five organizations that have won a Cup race this year could have been in play for Reddick next season. Hamlin made sure those teams never got the chance.

“I watched him. I raced against him. I wanted him. And I got him,” Hamlin said Tuesday.

Reddick will remain at Richard Childress Racing through next season because RCR picked up the option on his contract for 2023.

After 2023, RCR will be among those teams looking to fill a spot on its Cup roster.

“There are a lot of free agents at the end of ’23,” Hamlin said. “If you can strike while the iron is hot, then you strike.”

Next season has the potential to be one of the most dramatic free agent markets in recent years.

Lauletta was asked Tuesday if Wallace and Kurt Busch were both signed through 2023. Lauletta said: “No changes on our side for ’23. The focus is squarely on ’24 and how we maximize the opportunities of the organization as a whole.”

Lauletta would not say if either Wallace or Busch were signed beyond 2023.

While anything is possible, one possible scenario next year could be for Harvick, Truex and Kurt Busch to retire after the 2023 season. That would open a seat at Stewart-Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing, which would be filled by Reddick.

Ty Gibbs would be expected to move up to Cup for Joe Gibbs Racing after the 2023 season. Provided Christopher Bell and Bubba Wallace remain with their teams, Toyota would have at least four drivers, including Reddick, no older than 31 competing for the manufacturer in 2024.

Having a majority of its driver lineup so young is significant to David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development.

“I’ll say it really can’t be overstated how important it is,” Wilson said. “It seems like just the other day we had a stable of 20-something year old drivers and the future looked unlimited. We all know that that is a moment in time.

“If you are not intentional about securing your future, about securing your foundation as a (manufacturer), as a race team, then you’re going to get behind all too quickly.

“It feels great to lower that average (of the age of drivers) with Tyler, knowing he’s coming. Obviously we’re not done yet in our commitment to the development of young driver athletes.”

Hamlin noted that signing a driver more than a year before they’ll join the organization “it’s not unprecedented, but it is rare. In my mind so is Tyler, and you act accordingly.”

This marks only the third time in the last decade that a driver signed with another organization more than a year before joining that team.

In late 2012 news broke that Harvick would join Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. Harvick’s contract with Richard Childress Racing was through 2013.

In 2015, Clint Bowyer signed to be Tony Stewart’s replacement at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2017. Bowyer was at Michael Waltrip Racing, which was shutting down after the season. Bowyer spent 2016 with HScott Motorsports.

Although Richard Childress Racing expressed frustration with the timing of Reddick’s announcement, Reddick said now was as good as any other time to complete this deal.

“For me, in my opinion, it’s better to do it now than the playoffs,” he said. “There’s no reason to kick the can down the road. We know what lies ahead. We now all know what is in front of us and what we need to do.”

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Long: 23XI Racing avoids free agent frenzy for Tyler Reddick with early signing originally appeared on NBCSports.com