NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing reflect on 15 years together, prepare to part ways

October 27

Don’t expect Kyle Busch to get all weepy next week about his final race with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Other drivers have had photos set up, beer toasts afterward and other special moments for their final races with a team. But Busch isn’t expecting an overly emotional ending to his 15-year run with JGR when the 2022 season concludes Nov. 6 at Phoenix Raceway.

"I don't anticipate that being too emotional, no," Busch told FOX Sports. "Probably a little bit of my character, one, but then probably a little bit of the way it has all gone down, two."

Busch, an intense and uber-talented race-car driver, didn’t anticipate that 2022 would see the end of his time at JGR, not even after M&M’s told the team 14 months ago that it wouldn’t return as Busch’s (or any NASCAR team's) sponsor in 2023.

The 37-year-old Busch figured JGR would land him a new sponsor, and they'd continue to do what they’ve done since 2008: win races (56 Cup victories) and win championships (two Cup titles).

But negotiations with sponsors fell apart in the spring, and Busch couldn’t get what he wanted from JGR. As Ty Gibbs, the grandson of Joe Gibbs, began to progress more quickly than anticipated in the Xfinity Series, he was an option for JGR that could allow them to move on from Busch, with an announcement of Gibbs likely coming in the next month. 

Busch announced last month that he would join Richard Childress Racing next season.

Kyle Busch on why he couldn't get a deal done

Kyle Busch, at the announcement that he was going to Richard Childress Racing, discussed why he couldn’t get a deal done to stay with JGR.

"The only thing I can say to that is it didn’t happen," Busch said at the announcement about not completing a deal with JGR. "Apparently they’ve got other irons in the fire, maybe sponsors for other drivers, and that’s the road they’re going down."

Some of the bitterness of the upcoming split has probably dwindled over the past month. The sides are moving on and at least trying to remember the good times.

"When you think about it with us, 15 years, that was awesome," Joe Gibbs said. "Just really appreciate that so much. ... We worked hard trying to get everything done there. [But] we couldn't.

"I think he's found a home. I'll be willing to bet he's going to be after it next year, and he's going to want to win a bunch of races."

Joe Gibbs on his relationship with Kyle Busch

Joe Gibbs says the 15 years with Kyle Busch have been memorable, and he expects Busch to be motivated to win a bunch of races next year.

When he looks back, Busch can identify plenty of signature moments with JGR. His first win for JGR was also the first win for Toyota in the Cup Series.

"For sure the first win ... at Atlanta, that was awesome," he said.

He has won at every racetrack except those that have been added the past few years. He won two Cup championships. He had some weekend sweeps, including all three series at Bristol. He also won every season.

"It's certainly been a very strong journey and a fruitful one, a successful one," Busch said. "So it's been super good. ... I wouldn't change it at all."

About the only thing he didn’t do was win the Daytona 500.

"There were three or four good 500s that just circumstantially didn't work out," he said. 

Like any race-car driver, Busch knows his team left plenty of wins on the table. He thinks they could have won the title at least two other times. This year alone, he thinks he could've won four or five races, instead of one. The past three seasons, he has won a total of four Cup races.

"Like, where did the luck truck go?" Busch said. "We had that golden horseshoe from ’15 to ’19, and then it just fell out. So what's happened has just been ruthless.

"I can't explain it. And honestly, I don't know that we would be talking like this if it wasn't for not winning four or five races a year like we had been years prior in the last four years."

Could we see Kyle Busch in the 2023 Indy 500?

With the knowledge that he will soon be a Chevrolet driver, Kyle Busch discusses potentially racing in the Indianapolis 500.

Busch can look back now and say that's probably what ended his run with JGR. He thinks that if he had been winning more regularly, either M&M’s would've stayed or another sponsor would've been more inclined to jump on board. 

And he thinks the lack of wins possibly impacted his negotiations with Gibbs.

"If I had been winning four or five races in the last four years, then they would have had a harder time, I think, being like, ‘Man, it's stupid for us to let a guy go that's still winning races four, five at a clip,'" he said.

"It’s easier to look at one’s fall off and say, ‘Eh, we'd be fine without him. No big deal.'"

For his part, Busch can’t explain the fall off.

"There’s a taper, and I don't know why or what, but I've been working my ass off trying to figure out how to fix that," he said. "And a lot of it has been luck-related, especially this year. But you know, it's fact."

The facts of his accomplishments through his 15 years, though, also would make anyone smile. Not only did Busch win two Cup titles, but he also won 91 Xfinity races, including the 2009 championship in which a driver could run for points in multiple series.

He started Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2010 and won 46 races driving for himself in Toyotas. His drivers have combined for another 52 wins. Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson said Busch’s accomplishments make the breakup emotional.

"It’s been very emotional. We’re still racing, and Kyle is still out there trying," Wilson said. "We’re going to try to sit down in Phoenix and make sure that we say goodbye the right way.

"I think we all genuinely want to focus on everything we’ve done together and all the championships and race wins. No one is ever going to take that away from us." 

David Wilson on losing Kyle Busch

Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson says losing Kyle Busch is like losing a member of the family, and they will sit down at Phoenix and say goodbye "the right way."

Toyota, for the most part, supported Busch’s truck program by leveraging vendors (such as Safelite, JBL, etc.) to sponsor trucks for young drivers Toyota was developing for the Cup Series.

"You don’t work for somebody for a decade-and-a-half and not come away feeling you’re losing a family member," Wilson said. "It is very much a family dynamic. There’s lots of high and lows. There’s screaming and unhappiness mixed with elation."

Busch said he doesn’t remember many instances of screaming, but he does relish the relationships he made with those who worked on his cars.

"The personnel, just the workers there, the mechanics there, the fabricators there, I feel like that's going to be the biggest thing [I’ll miss]," he said. "Those guys all put in so much time and effort and work and building really good cars. ... I'm going to miss continuing to race with them and win with them but also excited for a new group."

Starting in about 10 days, Busch will have to clean out his closet and get rid of all of his JGR and Toyota gear as he heads to his new group at RCR and Chevrolet.

"To me, it’s just a fresh start," he said. "Even if you have a whole new group of guys [on the team], that's not the same as a fresh start somewhere else. There’s certainly going to be a honeymoon phase and everything and being able to go over to RCR similar as it was 15 years ago, when I went over to JGR.

"I'm looking forward to being able to work with a whole new group and excited about that opportunity to get in that No. 8 car and go win again. That’s the thing — winning makes everything else easy. And so if we can do that, we'll be all good."

Kyle Busch moving to Richard Childress Racing for 2023

How successful will Kyle Busch and RCR be in 2023? Bob Pockrass reacts to the news of their partnership.

Looking for more NASCAR content? Sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass!

What to watch for

The spring race at Martinsville in April had its challenges, as drivers blamed gearing and a tire that wouldn’t rubber the track in the low-40 temperatures. When they tested in August, temperatures ranged from 75 to 85 degrees and with new gearing and a new tire, the track rubbered in. The forecast for this weekend is 55-60 degrees.

So the big question is with cooler temperatures, will the track get rubbered in so there can be multiple grooves? Drivers are hopeful but not confident. 

The new gearing will still require shifting, but the hope is that it won’t allow drivers to be as "defensive" with their shifting and that there will be more of a cost if a driver loses time to another in the turn and isn't able to shift and pull away.

And don’t forget: There will be seven drivers fighting for their playoff futures and spots in the championship round at Martinsville. That means they have plenty of incentive to take more than they can give and ask for forgiveness later.

NASCAR playoff drivers on the situation going into Martinsville

Hear what the seven drivers vying for three spots had to say about their situations going into the race at Martinsville.

Thinking out loud

Who will advance to the Championship 4 in the Cup and Xfinity series races at Martinsville?

In Cup, Joey Logano is in with his win at Vegas. Ross Chastain (+19 on the cutoff) and Chase Elliott (+11) should be able to maintain their points positions. William Byron, sitting five points ahead of Denny Hamlin, could be in jeopardy of falling below, and both of them could be battling for the win along with Ryan Blaney (-18).

But with Elliott and Byron the two dominant cars at Martinsville in the spring, it's difficult to see Hamlin, Blaney, Christopher Bell (-33) or Chase Briscoe (-44) pulling off a win. The final spot will likely come down to Byron and Hamlin, and based on April, the advantage goes to Byron, though based on history and experience, it would go to Hamlin.

Can Denny Hamlin rally to get into Championship 4?

Bob Pockrass discusses whether he thinks Denny Hamlin can rally at Martinsville to clinch a spot in the Championship 4.

In Xfinity, Noah Gragson and Josh Berry are in. Ty Gibbs has a 30-point cushion and should be in on points. The last spot likely will come down to AJ Allmendinger (+5), Justin Allgaier (-5) or Austin Hill (-7). Sam Mayer (-28) and Brandon Jones (-38) pretty much face must-win situations.

Jones won in April, so you can’t rule him out. But Allmendinger was third in April and has a strong history at Martinsville. It will be his spot to lose, but if he does, expect Hill to be more willing than Allgaier to use the bumper and ask for forgiveness later.

Social spotlight

They said it

"It has been one of those years." Martin Truex Jr. after a disappointing finish at Homestead

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.


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