Kurt Busch joins 23XI Racing to drive second Cup car in 2022

23XI Racing announced on Friday that Kurt Busch will join the organization next season as part of an expansion to a two-car team in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series.

The 43-year-old Busch will pair with teammate Bubba Wallace as the organization enters its second Cup Series season. The team debuted this year after NBA legend Michael Jordan and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin partnered to create 23XI, fielding the No. 23 Toyota for Wallace.

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Busch will drive the No. 45 Toyota — coincidentally the other number that Jordan is known for wearing during his Pro Basketball Hall of Fame career as well as his minor league baseball career. Monster Energy is on board as the primary sponsor as well.

“I cannot begin to express my gratitude for this opportunity,” Busch said in a team release. “Racing to win is what I live for. Helping to continue developing a new team, alongside Michael Jordan, Denny Hamlin, and Toyota is exactly what I want to be part of. Winning is important to 23XI, it’s important to Monster Energy, and it’s important to me. That is our goal.”

Hamlin had been bullish about the team’s growth to a two-car operation, saying in media availabilities before Friday’s announcement that the team did not have a firm timetable for expansion. When asked in May about what sort of driver 23XI was considering for a proposed second car, Hamlin quipped: “A good one.”

Jordan and Hamlin have one in Busch, who has won 33 races at NASCAR’s top level and claimed the Cup Series championship in 2004. The well-traveled Busch has spent the last three seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing, whose NASCAR assets were purchased by Trackhouse Racing in a deal announced June 30 that takes effect after the 2021 season.

“When we started this team, our vision was to grow to a multi-car organization. To be able to expand in just our second year is a huge step for us,” Hamlin said in a team release. “Kurt brings a wealth of knowledge and a championship mindset to our team, and will be able to help us grow stronger and more competitive each and every week.”

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Busch is set to enter his 22nd season of Cup Series competition. He has won at least one race in 18 of those seasons, including the last eight in a row. His victory earlier this season at Atlanta Motor Speedway clinched his ninth consecutive berth in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

The move puts the veteran Busch in Toyota equipment for the first time in his long career. The automaker will field the Toyota TRD Camry in the 2022 Cup Series as NASCAR’s Next Gen car makes its debut. Additional partners and team personnel will be announced at later date, according to the team.

Wallace, 27, is in his fourth full season of Cup Series competition. He joined 23XI Racing this year after spending the last three seasons with Richard Petty Motorsports. He currently ranks 21st in the Cup Series standings with a best finish of fifth place at Pocono Raceway in June.