Kyle Busch in deep negotiations with RCR, sources say
By Bob Pockrass
FOX Sports NASCAR Writer
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kyle Busch's free agency move following the 2022 season could be titled "A Moment In Time."
Busch, nearly synonymous with Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota, is expected to leave both the team and manufacturer after the 2022 season and is in deep negotiations to drive for Richard Childress Racing, according to sources familiar with the situation who also confirmed that RCR began the process of notifying sponsors Friday.
When asked directly if he’s going to RCR next year, Busch indicated that he is still trying to finish up the deal.
"I do not have any new news to share," he said. "If I did, I guarantee you there would be some sort of big announcement. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been one of those yet.
"So we’re still working on it behind the scenes, trying to put it all together. It’s not done."
JGR, Toyota, RCR and Busch executives and representatives have all declined comment on Busch’s plans. An announcement is expected next week.
He likely will drive the No. 8 car. The status of Tyler Reddick — the current driver of the No. 8 car who is signed with 23XI Racing starting in 2024 — is in limbo as far as whether RCR adds a third full-time car for him or if 23XI or another team could field a car for him next year.
Ironically, the news of Busch’s departure is breaking at Kansas Speedway, the racetrack where in 2011, Childress punched Busch after a Camping World Truck Series race in which Busch was involved in an accident with RCR trucks. The episode became known as the "hold my watch" incident, as Childress gave his grandson, Austin, his watch before going after Busch.
Childress, who was fined $150,000 for the altercation, said a couple of weeks ago that their past was in the past.
"Kyle is a great race driver," Childress said Aug. 28 when asked about the possibility of Busch joining his team. "He and I have talked. We put all our differences behind us a while back, and he is a great race driver. He will land him a good ride somewhere, for sure."
Busch joked Saturday about potentially driving for Childress.
"Who is to say he hasn’t punched me again in any of these conversations?" he said. "Whenever you go into negotiations, it’s never fun, so you’re duking the whole time.
"You grow up, and you work through things. It was fine the first time I sat down with him."
Busch knew more than a year ago that Joe Gibbs Racing would need to find a sponsor to replace M&M’s. Although it got close to landing at least one, nothing came to fruition, and by April, Busch started hinting that his time at JGR could be over.
But few thought his free agency would last this long, as he had hoped not to leave Toyota. Negotiations with Toyota team 23XI Racing ended earlier this week, according to sources. Busch has said he wants a multiyear deal, with the potential for much longer.
"This is one of the toughest things I’ve had to do and either dwell on or look forward to, one or the other, for the last 15 years," Busch said. "You don’t want to have to do this again. I’m getting too old for this. [I’ve gotten] a lot more gray hair this week or this year."
It was 15 years ago that Busch last saw his career in flux. He spent three Cup seasons at Hendrick Motorsports, where he won four Cup races and finished fifth in the standings in 2007. But midway through that 2007 season, he learned his contract wouldn't be renewed, as Hendrick was wooing Dale Earnhardt Jr.
He landed at Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2008 — the same year Toyota started at JGR — and has since won 56 Cup races and the 2015 and '19 Cup championships. He also won the 2009 Xfinity Series championship, as he competed in all Cup and Xfinity races that year.
He has won 224 races across the three NASCAR national series — 60 in Cup, 102 in Xfinity and 62 in trucks. His past 46 truck wins have come while driving for his own team, Kyle Busch Motorsports, which has had extensive support from Toyota.
Toyota used KBM to help develop prospects, often leveraging vendors (JBL, Safelite etc.) to sponsor the drivers. That allowed KBM to focus more on competition than finding sponsorship. Now that he is moving to Chevrolet, the future of KBM is unclear, as far as how much Busch will need to find sponsors or take drivers with funding.
Busch is only 37 years old and thinks he could drive for about another 10 years. He hopes this stop with RCR, though, is his final one.
While he won 27 Cup races from 2015 to '19, he has won only four since capturing the 2019 title. His average finish this year of 16.1 is his worst since 2014.
But Toyota certainly wanted to keep him.
"We’d be foolish not to put everything in play to keep him in the family," Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson said last month. "That’s what we continue to do. ... This is not just an offensive consideration.
"I don’t want to race against a pissed off Kyle Busch. Wherever he lands, he’s going to do some damage."
Ty Gibbs, grandson of Joe Gibbs, is the most likely replacement for Busch. He is second in the Xfinity Series standings and has a series-high five victories this year. He also has five top-20 finishes in seven Cup starts in a substitute role for the injured Kurt Busch at 23XI Racing.
Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.