Interview: Steve Lauletta on why 23XI's "different approach" is starting to pay off

23XI Racing firmly believe in the course of action put forth by Hamlin and co-owner Michael Jordan.

For fourth-year NASCAR Cup Series team 23XI Racing, Sunday’s runner-up finish by Tyler Reddick in the No. 45 Nasty Beast Toyota Camry was equal parts exhilarating and frustrating.

“Second sucks, that’s for sure, but we had a really fast Nasty Beast Camry,” said Reddick a few minutes the checkered flag in Las Vegas. “We should have been up there battling even more than we were throughout the day.”

Taking it all in was 23XI Racing President Steve Lauletta, whose two drivers, Reddick and Bubba Wallace sit 12th and 14th respectively in the points.

“We’ve had a top five finish in every race,” answered Lauletta when asked for his take on 23XI Racing’s performance three races into the season.
“The other finishes we’ve had – 29th and 30th place and 35th place – have been tough. Yeah, we’ve got to change that. And both of our guys have been very competitive. Obviously, the two superspeedway races were hard to call, but they both ran really well and had enough speed in Vegas and that was obviously a really strong race for Tyler and the No. 45 car. It’s just one of those things where we’ve got to get them both to finish up there near the front. Hopefully that will start this weekend at Phoenix.
“I think we are still feeling the momentum from the end of last season and our playoff push,” continued Lauletta, citing the fact that both drivers found their way into the Round of 12 in 2023. “We were happy to win one of the Daytona Duels with Tyler so far in 2024. Obviously Tyler had a shot at winning in Las Vegas and both guys had a good points day under their belts.
“Everybody feels real confident. It was good to see the speed in both of cars at the first mile and a half track of the season in Vegas. Now we’ll go to Phoenix and Bristol and then we’ll go to COTA where we are the defending race winner with Tyler. We think we’ve got three more strong efforts coming at us over the next few weeks.”

Now in his fourth year as 23XI Racing President, Lauretta has had his hands full in monitoring the effort’s striking new Airspeed race shop, NASCAR media, team sponsors, and the immediate future of the team.

“Yeah, there is always a lot going on, but that’s how we like it,” Lauletta said. “I feel like we’re on the path to the five year plan that Denny Hamlin laid out to be a consistent race winning team and a championship contending team.
“Like I remind people all of the time, we weren’t supposed to have Tyler Reddick untilthis season. And so we had a bonus year with him last year and finished sixth in driver points and made it one step away from Phoenix. We feel like that was a big opportunity for us to work together for a year that was kind of unexpected. Now we are really hitting the ground running and feel like we’ll continue to have that upward trajectory to have a great fourth season.”
Lauletta believes the team is on target with its five-year plan.

According to Lauletta, all involved with 23XI Racing firmly believe in the course of action put forth by Hamlin and co-owner Michael Jordan.

“Yeah, everybody does. It’s a full team effort. We’re here at Airspeed, which is our new facility. It’s fantastic. It’s not done yet, but we are building cars out of here. We’re all working out of here. It’s way ore efficient than the previous setup that we had in the leased and rented shops that we moved into. Having our own facility that is laid out the way our competition team envisioned it and having everybody under one roof has been a fantastic next step in that journey of us building this ace team into a force to be reckoned with.”

Between star ownership, competitive cars and drivers and a litany of sponsors and new media initiatives, the 23XI Racing organization is perpetually in motion, constantly pushing new ideas in an effort to stand out and separate themselves from the other Cup teams.

“It’s resonating that we are trying to take a little bit of a different approach,” Lauletta said.
“You see it in everything from our hauler designs to the influencers we have at the track, to the partners and the programming that we do and the content that we do. We ask ourselves every day how we can stand out. We had a great hospitality area that we did in Daytona. We got a lot of people talking because we had this sort of sophisticated and elevated look. If we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it the best way we can and, again, hopefully a little bit different than everybody else. And different to be our brand. Not just to be different, but to do it in a way that tells everybody why 23XI Racing is what it is.
“Yeah, we want the core NASCAR fan to want to cheer Tyler and Bubba and our team on, but we also want to be at the forefront of bringing a different fan to the sport. Whether that’s because they followed Michael Jordan’s career, or they support some of the partners that we have and they’re more casual sports fans that go, ‘Hey, that’s a NASCAR team that I can look after and cheer for.’ And it has been working. Our fan base for 23XI Racing is a little bit different than the traditional NASCAR fan. I think we are balancing both of those and that’s a good place to be.”

How does Hamlin see it?

“I think he’s real happy,” answered Lauletta. “Obviously, he’s back to the focus being on driver Denny. He’s trying to beat us every week, but that’s okay. He’s been at the shop and at Airspeed a lot. His fingerprints are all over the look and feel of this place and we think he’s done an amazing job at that. He’s still working Tyler and Bubba and helping them refine their racecraft, because he is at the top of his game. Denny feels like we are on the path to the five year plan that he laid out, but we can’t rest. We’re not sneaking up on anybody anymore. They know that we’re coming to the racetrack and we’ve got fast cars and we can compete for wins, so that’s a nice place to be, but it also puts pressure on you.”

Lauletta also referenced the recent news that 23XI Racing has designs on entering a third car in selected NASCAR Cup races this season.

“Yeah, I think you’ll see an announcement this week,” he said. “We’re planning on doing a few races again with our third entry. No details to share just yet, but we’re excited. It’s another step towards us balancing opportunities to have our team that might not go to the racetrack all of the time, to go to the racetrack. It’s a chance to balance the additional work that it will take at Airspeed to prepare a third entry. We feel like it is a good thing for us to continue to do with the right partners and right drivers and you’ll see some of that news coming soon.”
Eric Johnson