I really believed that the news of Brad Keselowski to RFR was going to be the juiciest silly season news of the year, but that has quickly been outdone. Kurt Busch is being rumored to drive the second entry for 23XI Racing in 2022. When I first heard this I was floored, but after really thinking about it, I wasn’t that shocked.
My first reaction was, well what about Harrison Burton or Daniel Hemric? The biggest point of this team was to help with the overflow of Toyota development drivers that they have coming through the pipeline. Looking at both their stats so far this season, you could make the case for either one of them, but can you make the case that they would perform as well as Kurt Busch?
This is kind of a moot point since Busch is a 22-year veteran and these two are still early in their career, of course Busch would be better. You would think the point of hiring new drivers is to prepare for the future, but when your new team is also new then maybe young drivers aren’t what’s best for you.
I think this season was a humbling experience for 23XI because they came out of the gate thinking wins were inevitable and playoffs of course would follow this season. Right now, it’s looking like Bubba Wallace will have to win at Daytona to be able to make it into the Playoffs.
I think it’s clear that 23XI doesn’t have the speed that it was expected they would. Many want to point fingers at Wallace, but Wallace performed better last season with Richard Petty Motorsports then he is currently performing with 23XI. RPM is notorious for having below average equipment, so that tells me that the issue is with the team, not the driver.
That being said, having a young driver like Wallace whose experience is nothing compared to the veterans of this sport, you have to wonder if his lack of experience was a hindrance to a new team starting out. Getting a driver like Kurt Busch could not only help Wallace as a teammate, but help the whole organization.
Busch is still a championship contending driver in my opinion. He is having a horrible year, but so is his entire team. Chip Ganassi Racing is clearly on the downturn, so if you can put Busch in Joe Gibbs Racing equipment, there is some potential for a big playoff run in his twilight years.
As for Burton and Hemric. Well, Burton up to this point has not shown any major progression since last season, he hasn’t shown regression either, but it’s not what you want to see if you’re trying to promote him to Cup. He is only 20-year old, I really don’t see how one more year in Xfinity could be anything but good. Hemric is a different story because he’s 30-years old, but at the end of the day his experience and driving is nothing compared to Busch. I think he deserves another shot at Cup, but he’s not a slam dunk prospect worthy of promotion as soon as possible.
Ty Gibbs is the next big thing for Toyota, but he still needs to develop, despite it not seeming that way. They will at least put him in Xfinity for one season before even considering putting him in Cup. Until then, Kurt Busch is the best candidate to warm that seat in for these young guys.