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NASCAR: 23XI Racing discusses failed pursuit of Kyle Busch

23XI Racing team owner Denny Hamlin discusses the failed pursuit of Kyle Busch. Plus, what are Hamlin's ideas for owning a NASCAR team in the future?

Austin Konenski
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Kyle Busch will move to Richard Childress Racing’s No. 8 car for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season but it did not come without controversy. 23XI Racing and others pursued Busch before this announcement.

Denny Hamlin talked about pursuing his current teammate and why 23XI Racing might not have been his best fit.

NASCAR: Denny Hamlin talks about losing out on Kyle Busch

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23XI Racing was among the contenders for Busch but it never came to fruition as it was announced in mid-September that he would take over Tyler Reddick’s ride and be paired with crew chief Randall Burnett for the 2023 season.

In an interview with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Hamlin was asked about the pursuit of Busch and what went on through the minds of people within the organization.

“I don’t know that it was not possible. We can’t predict the future in what the economics model of owning a NASCAR team will look like in the future. We only know what it is today. That may change in the next few years, it may not, but all we can do is project what we have now. Certainly, we knew that in 2024 we have Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace a part of our team.

Now, did we inquire about short-term still with Kyle and next year. Yes, possibly. But, I think Kyle wanted more of a long-term stability. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t guarantee him that he could be at 23XI long-term. I just think that we weren’t able to give those long-term securities that he was looking for, which I totally understand.”

Denny Hamlin on the possibility of signing Kyle Busch

It sounds based on Hamlin’s words that 23XI Racing wanted Busch to join the organization but it might have only been guaranteed that he would be there for “X” number of years instead of longer.

As the team owner of 23XI Racing said, it didn’t mean that Busch wouldn’t be there long-term. It meant the long-term guarantee of a possible contract would not be present due to the economic model of NASCAR.

Hamlin has been on record stating that he wanted more of a profit to go to the organizations so it wouldn’t be based on sponsorship as much. Plus, it’s hard to expand when the looming TV deal is not set yet.

Perhaps, if this situation took place a couple of years into the future, 23XI Racing would be in a much better spot to offer Busch a contract and he could have remained with Toyota Racing with the same going for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

The easiest option would have been to move to 23XI Racing in place of Kurt Busch if he retired or a third car with a charter because it would allow Toyota Racing to stick with his NASCAR Truck Series organization.

There would not be as much movement and only involve Busch himself. However, 23XI Racing couldn’t provide exactly what the 37-year-old was asking for and that created a situation where this did not come to fruition.

The organization currently has Bubba Wallace under contract on a multi-year deal while Kurt Busch sees his contract run through the 2023 season. Tyler Reddick is set to join the organization in 2024 if he is not bought out.

That means three drivers would be under contract for the 2024 season if Busch would have signed with 23XI Racing. It might have been possible for next season if Kurt Busch retired, but there’s no long-term guarantee.

The organization and Busch were on two different timelines which caused this possible scenario to fall through. However, it doesn’t mean Hamlin doesn’t want 23XI Racing to expand as he does have wishes for the future.

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Denny Hamlin discusses his wishes as an owner in NASCAR

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Hamlin founded 23XI Racing with NBA legend Michael Jordan in 2020 in one of the wildest silly seasons in memory that included Wallace joining the organization, Justin Marks and Pitbull opening Trackhouse Racing, and Kyle Larson to Hendrick Motorsports.

The idea of expanding was always on the table for 23XI Racing and that occurred when Busch joined the organization to drive its No. 45 car on a full-time basis with sponsorship from Monster Energy.

23XI Racing President Steve Lauletta has previously stated the organization would love to expand to more entries in the future, but it wouldn’t expand to three cars for the 2023 season as they pursued the two-time champion on the market.

Hamlin reaffirmed that he would love to expand to a three or four car organization in the future while also stating what he would like to see changed in the financial model of NASCAR.

“Again, I would love to be three, four car team in the future. But, the economical model has to support it. There was just no guarantees because I can’t look in the crystal ball and know I’ll be able afford it years from now. I wish I could, I wish it wasn’t like that. I wish that it wasn’t so sponsor dependent and we could just go out and hire the best people available at every single position. That would be good for everyone, but we have to run a business and we have make sure we are financial viable for years to come. I just don’t know that I could give the long-term stability that Kyle was looking for.”

Denny Hamlin on owning a NASCAR team

Hamlin is stating what every owner in NASCAR would love to do with their organization. If they could hire the best available employee at every single position, it would be an ideal world.

However, that is not the case unlike many other sports. Players in the NBA, NFL, and MLB all don’t need sponsorship or money to come with them as they sign with a brand new organization.

NASCAR drivers need some sort of sponsorship or money and if not, the organization needs to take the responsibility of sponsoring them. Motorsports is a different dynamic than stick-and-ball sports.

For example, Alex Bowman used to drive the No. 88 car for Hendrick Motorsports while sponsored by Chevy Goods. It was likely not going to be a sponsor the organization could maintain so they moved Bowman to the No. 48 Ally car.

It’s the same issue with Busch. Joe Gibbs Racing lost Mars and couldn’t find a sponsor for him. If sponsorship was not an issue, Busch would be spending the rest of his career with the organization.

The financial model stemming from the next TV deal will be important. It will change the future and perspectives of many teams if it changes in the correct manner for owners in the sport.

At the end, 23XI Racing simply couldn’t offer Busch the long-term stability he wanted like at Richard Childress Racing. If this was a few years down the line, it could have been a different story.