Kurt Busch on the eve of the season-concluding Phoenix Raceway race last November hinted about who might be his new crew chief at 23XI Racing come the start of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season.
“We’re looking all over the place, but I believe the crew chief that we’ll end up with will be a guy that you’ve heard of before and that is a winner in the Cup Series.”
Only 10 days removed from the waving of the checkered flag over the D-shaped oval in Avondale, Arizona, both Busch and 23XI Racing let the motorsports world know that Busch and Billy Scott would, in fact, be working together in bringing the No. 45 entry to life.
“The chemistry Billy and I had together a few years back at Stewart-Haas Racing was strong. We raced smart and built consistency with each other. That showed with the results and the run the team had together. Winning races is what it’s all about and our past experiences will help build the future at 23XI.”
Paired together during the 2018 season at SHR, the duo amassed a win as well as a career high 22 top-10 finishes. Now, they’re back together and, as this interview was completed and this piece written, the two are fast at it, haunting Charlotte Motor Speedway this week in the form of a two-day NASCAR Next Gen test. On Friday afternoon, RACER.com spoke with the 44-year-old Scott.
Q: Billy, you, Kurt and the entire No. 45 Toyota Camry TRD team have been hard at work testing the new Next Gen car here at Charlotte Motor Speedway and there is still plenty of testing yet to come. Sort of like being between storms?
BILLY SCOTT: Yes. It’s way more hectic of an off-season than we are used to. Big test days with both sides of it. We had the first day and then one day to recuperate and then we were right back at it. When we get back from the holidays, we go to Atlanta. The following week after that is Daytona. We both have both of those tests to do, so it has pretty much been non-stop.
Q: And with all of the wholesale change, most everyone is basically working from an absolute clean sheet of paper right now, aren’t they?
BS: Yeah, that’s the cool part. Nobody has a notebook. Kurt and I had a relationship of working with each other back in 2018. We worked with each other and know tendencies, communication aspects, what a number scale may be on a balance of the car and stuff like that. When it comes to set-ups and tire data and what happens during a race and strategies and all of that, everything is going to be reset. It is an interesting time to start over. It’s a good time to start over, in my opinion. And the cool thing about it is that Kurt has been through so many changes in the sport that he has almost become accustomed to it and has always succeeded on the other side of it, so that’s the part that we are all most excited about.
Q: Between Kurt’s 20 year-plus body of work at the Cup level with Penske Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing, as well as his accumulation of experience and on-track success, the two of you working together at 23XI just might be a match made in heaven.
BS: Yeah, that’s what we are hoping for, for sure.
Q: Even going back to early November when the team was still putting pieces of the 23XI Racing team together, Kurt quietly let it be known that he wanted you to be his crew chief at 23XI Racing. Were you aware that was going on?
BS: Well, for sure. There was some early conversations that led to me knowing that spot was probably kind of going to be available and that things were going to unfold the way they did as far as the growth of that team. There was also a lot of uncertainty around all of that too. I had a lot going on and I didn’t really put all of the pieces together for a while and then Kurt reached out and said, “Hey, I don’t really know what you’ve got going on, but here’s what I’m thinking and here’s what I’d love to do.” It all just fell into place in the coming months.
Q: Jumping back a bit, you and Kurt worked together, and worked together very well at Stewart-Haas Racing back in 2018. How was that? How were you two together and will that relate to 2022?
BS: Well, the previous time in 2018, it was awesome. Certainly, statistically it was really good. Somebody mentioned to me in an interview a few weeks ago and that I didn’t realize was that the 22 top-10s that he had in 2018 was a career high. I think we also sat on five poles and got the pole award for the year and the success on-track certainly added up to a good year. No doubt about it. It was certainly my best year in the sport and we got the big win at Bristol and also competed for other ones. It was more than that. The reason why I look back and why I enjoyed that year so much was about the fun that we had and the relationship we had. It was so much more than just the performance.
“Like I said, the two kind of go hand-in-hand in a lot of ways, but the communication was real good. I think I understood what he was explaining about the car or what number scale he was using for a balance. Some of that stuff seemed to come more naturally than other settings, perhaps. We had fun and a lot of that was led by Kurt’s personality and how much he cares about his people. He says that a lot and it is true. He shows he’s genuine. He appreciates what people do. He likes being surrounded by people he gets along with and having the camaraderie. He’ll like going to a baseball game or out to the go-kart track. That’s what’s fun to be a part of as much as the racing.