Wednesday marked the start of a two-day Next Gen organizational test at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but it was more of the first day of school event for Kurt Busch.
Busch is officially on the job with 23XI Racing and the No. 45 team, and things are still in the get-to-know-you phase. While Busch has reunited with crew chief Billy Scott, many of the engineers and mechanics Busch is working with are settling into their new surroundings. Plus, there is the main task at hand of learning the Next Gen car.
“There’s been a lot to digest today,” Busch said. “I think we’ve done really well thus far to find little things with the car and to be able to find some speed, and then had a couple of 10-lap runs to understand a little bit more about the tire wear. So, it’s a process of checking off little boxes and working towards bigger projects over these next few hours today and then tomorrow reset with some things. Even possibly try something different with the transaxle and find other things in the rear of the car to change … there are all kinds of new, fun, cool toys and parts of the car to work with.
“There’s a lot going on, and it’s been a good day at 23XI to start out with a new group of guys and to meet some of the TRD people as well behind the scenes.”
testing Day 1 at is underway 👀
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Cup Series teams are on track from 9 a.m. ET to 8 p.m. ET Wednesday and then have a 9 a.m. ET to 5 p.m. ET session Thursday. Busch will drive the car both days for 23XI Racing. Teams are limited to two cars per three or four-car organization and one car per two-car organization. However, multiple drivers are allowed seat time.
Busch said it is easier to count the number of guys he has worked with before versus all those he’s doing so for the first time. There were a few from Chip Ganassi Racing who joined 23XI Racing, which Busch joined after three seasons at Ganassi. Although Busch was a free agent and likely to make a move for 2022, Ganassi ended up closing his NASCAR operation after Justin Marks called with an offer he couldn’t refuse.
There’s also been “a few familiar faces from SHR (Stewart-Haas Racing) and Roush and Penske,” said Busch. “I guess any time I walk through the garage, I get to wave at everybody because I’ve been with a few different teams. This new group, I can just feel the enthusiasm and the energy level of, all right, let’s go, let’s go. But, hey, let’s calm down, and let’s get all the boxes checked off the right way.”
Busch is a teammate to Darrell Wallace Jr. A former series champion and Daytona 500 winner, Busch said he was hired to be a driver, and his duties are to do that with the best knowledge and swagger he can. It will also be important for Busch to be consistent and pick up on things a veteran should in a new car. Having made his debut in 2001, Busch is not new to different generations of race cars or helping those around him.
“At the same time, there’s young engineers and young crew members that are eager to learn, and all the knowledge that I have in certain areas, I’d love to transfer it off to certain guys,” said Busch. “Then, with Bubba, we want him to jump into the program with a mindset to win and to be there at another level next year. It’s already starting to begin on that side of it and again, just finding other little things to do on the marketing side of all the different years that I have under my belt to make sure that all of our brands and partners are experiencing the full advantage of being with 23XI.”