There are still six races left in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series regular season, but silly season for the 2023 season is already in full swing. This past week, alone, we’ve seen Ty Dillon part ways with the No. 42 Petty GMS Motorsports team for 2023, and Tyler Reddick has already made his move for the 2024 season from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI Racing.
But even with the developments over this past week, we have a plethora questions that have yet to be answered. That being said, a lot of the key cogs of the 2023 Silly Season spoke to members of the media at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which could lend some insight into where we stand currently.
Here are some of the notable nuggets that came from the weekend at NHMS:
Kyle Busch will be back in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Ride — right?
While Kyle Busch has openly displayed frustration in conversations with the media this season about the progress of his contract extension talks with Joe Gibbs Racing, most notably during his media availability at Talladega in April, the two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion seemed a little more calm in New Hampshire when asked about it.
For Busch, he wishes the deal was done already, but with each passing day, where nobody else has been announced to replace him, Busch feels like the No. 18 is definitely his seat for 2023.
“It would be nice sooner or later. But honestly, it doesn’t matter how soon or how late it gets done, until there is an announcement that somebody else is driving the 18 car, then, I feel like I have a seat,” Busch said.
Despite sounding more confident about the situation than he did a few months ago, Busch did admit that he has had conversations with other teams about moving to a new car for the 2023 season.
When asked if he has spoken to other teams, Busch explained, “The short answer is yes. But, yeah, anything is possible, obviously. There’s all kinds of different things that can play out, it’s just a matter of what does.”
Following Christopher Bell’s victory in Sunday’s race at New Hampshire, Joe Gibbs was asked about the ongoing sponsor search to replace the departing M&M’s/Mars for the No. 18 car in 2023 and the team owner sounded perplexed that JGR hasn’t gotten that aspect of things figured out at this point in the year.
“In a way, it’s been hard,” Gibbs said. “We’re working really hard to try to get things done. It is hard, though. You gotta put a lot in place to make things work out and we’re going as hard as we can. We’re going after a number of different directions. So, yeah, I’m surprised at this point that we haven’t been able to get this finished.”
While it seems crazy, the possibility of Busch jumping from Joe Gibbs Racing — his home since the 2008 NASCAR Cup Series season — is still very much in play. But it seems like the ball is in JGR’s court as far as what Busch does.
Aric Almirola is retiring from full-time competition after 2022, or is He?
Heading into the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, Aric Almirola made a shocking announcement that he would be walking away from full-time competition in the NASCAR Cup Series at season’s end.
While Almirola, who has not scored a win this season, has had a pretty decent campaign, there have been rumblings in recent weeks that perhaps Almirola will not actually retire after all.
The driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang was asked point blank this week about whether he is honestly mulling returning for another full season in 2023.
“I have given it thought, but I don’t have anything new to say really as of right now,” Almirola explained. “I think for us and for our race team, my focus is to get through these next few weeks and try and win a race so we can get our way into the Playoffs.”
Almirola would continue by saying, “As far as anything that goes past this year, I don’t have anything new to say other than what I’ve said previously.”
While Almirola didn’t have anything new to say really, this is the first time he’s gone on the record with an admission that he has pondered a possible return for the 2023 season.
Every driver likes to go out on top, but as we stand, Almirola sits 18th in the Playoff Grid and he’s now 129 points outside of the cutline. If he doesn’t make the Playoffs in what was his final scheduled full-time season, could that sway his decision?
Ty Dillon’s exit from Petty GMS was mutual, But Was it Really?
Last Friday, Petty GMS Motorsports and their current driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet — Ty Dillon — announced that they would be mutually parting ways for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.
While the first-year driver/team pairing announced that the move was a mutual decision, Dillon sounded like the decision was anything but a mutual decision in an interview with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing and unfortunate when you have something so new — we just reached the halfway point in our first year together — that falls apart,” Dillon said. “Obviously, I wish them the best in 2023 and 2024. And honestly, this year.”
Dillon would continue by saying, “I don’t know. I think there are things that are kind of out of my control. You never know when relationships fall apart or don’t end up working. I know me, I’m a bought in person, when someone gives me a chance. I’ve been pretty bought in to believing that we were going to make this last for a long time, so I think that’s the hard part.”
While the move puts Dillon out of a ride for the 2023 season, as we stand, the driver says there were more things at play than many of us even realize from the outside.
“But there’s always more dynamics than you understand in the moment. Eventually, those will come out, but that’s not what it’s really about for me,” Dillon said.
In the interview, Dillon seemed emphatic that he will continue to drive in NASCAR and that he is hell-bent on being a NASCAR Cup Series race winner and championship contender.
Erik Jones Nearing Contract Extension With Petty GMS Motorsports
With Ty Dillon out at Petty GMS Motorsports, the question became: Would the selection of the new No. 42 driver impact whether or not Jones, who is in a contract year, would consider returning to the No. 43 car in 2023 or not?
For Jones, who says the team has leaned on him heavily for his input on a driver for the No. 42, he says whoever ends up as his teammate has little bearing on if he will return to the team or not.
“No, I wouldn’t say it impacts it necessarily,” Jones explained in a media availability at Loudon. “Sure, it makes a different, right? You want somebody in the seat that can grow the program. You want somebody to drive competition, right? I came from over at Joe Gibbs Racing with three guys that continuously drove me to improve. There were three future hall of famers probably over there that I drove with.
“You want to race with guys who are building the program with you, making the cars better. Learning stuff on their own and figuring it out. So, sure, it does make a difference a little bit to what I’m doing, but as far as coming back I don’t think the driver is going to change my decision at the end of the day.”
So, who has Jones been suggesting for the No. 42 car? He wouldn’t give definitive names, but Jones did think it would be best for a driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series to move into the No. 42 — Noah Gragson, current NASCAR Xfinity Series driver for JR Motorsports, has already been rumored to the ride.
Jones says that even though it’s early to be signing a contract extension, he feels team owner Maury Gallagher understands that Jones is a top priority and that the team is nearing having everything ready for a contract extension to be signed.
“I’d rather just have it settled. Obviously, we’re still right in mid to late July here. It’s still early to re-sign a deal, but I’d like to just get it done,” Jones said. “To be honest, and I told Maury that. And I think Maury agrees with that from our talk this week. Like I said, we’re close. We’re talking about pretty small details here at the end of the day of stuff to come back together. Some of it is that FOCUSfactor has been a great partner, we want to continue with them, get them signed back on too and keep growing with them. And hopefully get signed back up for myself too.”
So, it appears unless something drastic changes, Jones will be back in the No. 43 car next season.
Could Tyler Reddick Drive Somewhere Else in 2023 After the Messy Divorce With Richard Childress Racing?
Tyler Reddick dropped a bombshell on the NASCAR world, and his current Richard Childress Racing team, when he announced on Tuesday that he’ll be moving from RCR to 23XI Racing for the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Reddick’s announcement, which came more than a year before the ride swap will undoubtedly make things a little awkward around Richard Childress Racing, and with the Next Gen car being in it’s early stages, you would expect Reddick will be locked out of all competition meetings until his official departure.
But could the super early announcement lead to Reddick possibly not running for RCR in 2023? Reddick says that isn’t his intention.
“I haven’t thought about that,” Reddick explained. “I’m going to go out here and do what I do every single weekend for this team. Go out here and get up to speed as fast as we can in practice. I have every intention of finishing out what I agreed to do with RCR and hopefully that happens.”
Austin Dillon echoed the sentiment of wanting Reddick to finish out the 2023 season with the team, although Dillon did admit that he is a bit out of the loop on RCR business decisions as his focus is trying to make the 2022 Playoffs.
“I don’t think so,” Dillon said of if RCR would move on from Reddick for 2023. “From our side, we have to think of it as a business decision on anything that we do. Right now, I haven’t been in any kind of conversation other than what the 3 team needs to accomplish this year. As far as what happens in the future, I gotta go week to week right now to get myself into the Playoffs, but I enjoy working with Tyler.”
Even though he’s under contract, has anyone at RCR indicated that Reddick should be looking for a new ride for 2023?
“No, no, nope,” Reddick stated.
Does the Tyler Reddick Signing Impact Kurt Busch?
23XI Racing has publicly stated that Kurt Busch will have a ride with the team for as long as he wants to drive, but does Busch see a path where Reddick’s signing could force him into a retirement at the end of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season?
“It’s all still on the same timeline for me,” Busch said in his media availability.
Busch ended the subject by stating that all of the key players within the 23XI Racing organization have told him he is free to drive one of their race cars until he’s ready to call it a career.
“It’s still the same. It’s a matter of what is the right option. And when all signs point to this or that. The great thing I have right now is a lot of respect from the race team. Steve Lauletta, [Michael Jordan], Denny they’ve all said I have a seat as long as I want it. That’s so valuable to me. It makes me smile want to race harder and work harder. There’s still plenty of options that we are looking at.”
So, that being said, it looks like if Busch chooses to race past 2023 that 23XI Racing, which has also stated that Bubba Wallace is a part of their long-term plans, will need to expand to a three-car organization.
We’re Only Getting Started
The ripples of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series silly season will only get more and more intense as more pieces of the puzzle come into place. While it seems we have seen a lot of things unfold already, we seem to only be getting started.