CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Denny Hamlin said Kurt Busch is under no pressure to hurry up his recovery from a concussion and that 23XI Racing is not pushing at this time to get Tyler Reddick in its cars a year early.
Richard Childress Racing had a full-throttle response to Reddick’s planned move to 23XI, the Toyota team owned by Hamlin and Michael Jordan. Childress, blindsided by Reddick and furious, steadied his organization this week by snatching Kyle Busch, the crown jewel of Toyota’s fleet.
Not only did Childress sign the free agent of the decade, but he signed him to drive the No. 8 Chevrolet – Reddick’s car.
With Reddick’s crew chief.
Reddick, it seems, can drive some other Chevrolet that doesn’t yet exist as he rides out the final year of his RCR contract. Reddick told Childress in July he was moving to 23XI Racing in 2024.
Hamlin on Thursday applauded Childress’ recovery in landing Busch, the Cup Series’ only active multiple champion and winningest Toyota driver in all three NASCAR national series. Busch and Hamlin have been teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing since Busch moved there in 2008.
“Our announcement with Reddick, if you want me to take this from a fan perspective, it would be that RCR was caught off guard by it, understandably so, and this was their answer to that,” Hamlin said.
“More than likely they got together and said, ‘Well how are we going to respond?’ Well, the way they responded was to get a 60-time winner and two-time champion to fill that seat. They probably got with their manufacturers and said, ‘How can we make this happen?’ and they responded, and I think they responded well.”
The problem is that Childress seems determined to hold Reddick through the end of his 2023 deal, only now he’s moving him to a third car. Childress said he’d get a charter for the third Chevrolet but didn’t say who was selling, and the buying price is north of $20 million right now.
23XI wasn’t in a rush to get Reddick in the organization because Kurt Busch is under contract through 2023, and Hamlin said there’s even an option on Busch for 2024. But Busch has been sidelined since July with a concussion and there’s been speculation the 44-year-old champion will retire.
Hamlin said 23XI still plans for Reddick to join the organization in 2024, and there is no pressure on Busch to get back in his car. Bubba Wallace is currently driving Busch’s No. 45 Toyota and won last week at Kansas; Ty Gibbs is in Wallace’s No. 23 Toyota.
“We still feel like Kurt is going to run next year, if he doesn’t, we’ve already got contingency plans for the 45 car,” he said. “If (Reddick) was pushed to the side, I think we would take him. But I don’t know that we need to get into pushing to get him early.
“Tyler has really said, and I believe it, that he wants to live out his contract at RCR. Mostly he wanted to do it for his team and his guys. With him being taken out of the (No.) 8 car, I don’t know if that changes, but I know Tyler wanted to end what he started there.”
The Series next races Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee in the first elimination race of the playoffs. Hamlin is the favorite to win the race, while Kyle Busch picked up his only Cup win of the year at Bristol in the spring when the concrete surface was covered in dirt.
Four drivers will be cut from the 16-driver field after Bristol, and Kyle Busch is below the cutline at 13th in the standings. Also in danger of elimination are Austin Dillon, Chase Briscoe and Kevin Harvick.
Sources: MAC votes to accept UMass as member
The University of Massachusetts is set to join the MAC in all applicable sports for the 2025-26 school year, sources told ESPN on Monday.
UMass is an independent in football but plays in the Atlantic-10 in basketball and the vast majority of the school’s other sports. UMass’ hockey program will remain in the Hockey East as the MAC does not have a hockey league.
The MAC presidents voted to invite UMass on Monday, as the school had already formally applied to the league. The timing of an announcement is not known, but UMass is set to accept and finalize the details of the arrangement in the near future. Once a school formally applies in conference realignment, there’s usually an understanding that they will be accepted and enter that league.
UMass had also been engaged with Conference USA, per sources. Ultimately, the MAC made more geographic sense, and it also houses more of the sports that UMass offers. UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford made clear in recent comments that joining a league was a priority for UMass.
The move of UMass to the MAC will leave Notre Dame and Connecticut as the lone independents in college football, with Army set to join the American Athletic Conference in the upcoming season.
In basketball, the news is a jolt to the Atlantic 10 Conference, where UMass has had a home since 1976. UMass’ Final Four appearance in 1996 is the only Final Four appearance in Atlantic 10 history. (Three other A-10 teams — VCU, Loyola Chicago and George Mason — have had Final Four appearances, but these all came prior to joining the league.)
UMass will request to stay in the Atlantic 10 as an affiliate member for men’s and women’s lacrosse only, according to a source.
UMass has some familiarity in the MAC for football, having played four seasons in the league from 2012 to 2015. UMass eventually declined full membership in the MAC, which was part of the contract, and led to the school’s departure.
The move brings the MAC up to 13 teams and will open speculation as to whether the league will add a 14th member for balance. There had been discussions about Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky back in 2021, per sources, and those schools would again top any speculative lists.
UMass will play its final season as a football independent this year, and its schedule includes five current MAC members. The Athletic first reported the MAC’s vote on UMass.
Dodgers trade Margot to Twins, add Hernández
After shopping Margot, 29, in recent days, the Dodgers struck a deal to send the Twins the outfielder and shortstop prospect Rayne Doncon for shortstop prospect Noah Miller. The Dodgers also will send cash to help cover the $12 million owed Margot — $10 million this year and a $2 million buyout on a $12 million club option, a source told ESPN.
Hernández, who emerged during a six-year stint with the Dodgers and returned to Los Angeles in a trade last July, had considered a number of other teams before the trade paved the way for another stretch with the Dodgers.
Now 32, Hernández underwent double hernia surgery in the offseason but is expected to be ready around opening day. Hernández hit .262/.308/.423 in 54 games with the Dodgers last year, more in line with his career numbers than his .222/.279/.320 line with the Twins and .222/.291/.338 showing in an injury-pocked 2022 with Boston.
Margot, an eight-year veteran, had been traded to the Dodgers with right-hander Tyler Glasnow in December. He will help relieve Byron Buxton in center and joins a reigning American League Central champion lineup that is deep in bats. Margot hit .264/.310/.376 with four home runs in 336 plate appearances for Tampa Bay last season and is regarded as a slightly above-average defensive center fielder.
The swap of shortstop prospects sends Doncon, who signed with the Dodgers for a little under $500,000 in January 2021, to Minnesota while Miller, the 36th pick in the amateur draft that year, heads to Los Angeles.
Doncon, 20, hit .216/.283/.368 in Low-A last year and can also play second and third base. Miller, 21, slashed .223/.309/.340 in High-A and is considered a well-above-average defensive shortstop.
Sources: Iowa State to promote Mouser to OC
Iowa State is set to promote Taylor Mouser to offensive coordinator, part of several staff moves for the offense after Nate Scheelhaase left for the NFL, sources told ESPN on Monday.
Mouser has served as Iowa State’s tight ends coach since 2021 and added an assistant head coach title in 2023. He has been part of coach Matt Campbell’s staff in various roles, on and off the field, throughout Campbell’s tenure with the Cyclones.
Mouser will replace Scheelhaase, ISU’s offensive coordinator in 2023, who recently left to become the passing game specialist for the Los Angeles Rams.
Iowa State also is set to hire Tyler Roehl as running backs coach and assistant head coach, sources told ESPN. Roehl spent the past five seasons as North Dakota State‘s offensive coordinator and was the top internal candidate for NDSU’s head-coaching role. He recently left to become offensive coordinator at Tennessee State.
Jake Waters, who last week was promoted to running backs coach, instead is set to handle the quarterbacks, according to a source. Wide receivers coach Noah Pauley will serve as ISU’s pass game coordinator, and offensive line coach Ryan Clanton will be run game coordinator for the 2024 season.
Mouser served as a graduate assistant under Campbell at Toledo (2015) and Iowa State (2016) before becoming ISU’s assistant director of scouting.
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