It seems to be a foregone conclusion that Kyle Busch is on his way out at Joe Gibbs Racing. The driver who has delivered two NASCAR Cup Series championships and 56 race wins in the sport’s top division along with dozens of victories in the lower divisions apparently will not be getting a contract extension for 2023 and beyond from the organization he first began driving for in 2008. As a result, one of racing’s most successful and talented drivers will likely be plying his trade elsewhere in the future.
That said, the upcoming races at the Kansas Speedway this weekend and Bristol Motor Speedway next Saturday will almost certainly play a strong role in determining exactly how the 37-year-old driver will exit from his longtime team.
A blown engine in the first NASCAR Playoffs race held on Labor Day weekend at the Darlington Raceway resulted in a 30th place finish and dropped the Las Vegas native down to 11th in the standings only 8 points above the cutoff line with two races remaining before four drivers are trimmed from championship contention. Obviously, a missed step in one or both of these upcoming events would most likely dash any hopes Busch might have of winning a third championship and leaving JGR on the highest of high notes.
Should disaster strike at either Kansas or Bristol knocking Busch out of the NASCAR Playoffs, his exit from JGR has the potential for going downhill quickly.
Busch has stated that he hopes to have an announcement soon regarding his plans for 2023 and it appears less and less likely that those plans will include staying in his current situation. Suitors such as Richard Childress Racing, 23XI Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Kaulig Racing have all been rumored as potential landing places for the star driver.
Further, there have been plentiful rumors that JGR is already working on plans to replace Busch in the No. 18 Toyota with the most likely choice being the team owner’s grandson in the person of Ty Gibbs. The 19-year-old NASCAR Xfinity Series star has driven Toyotas in seven races for 23XI so far this season in the NASCAR Cup Series as a replacement for the injured Kurt Busch.
Whenever an announcement is made to officially clarify Busch’s plans for next season, it will be difficult for all involved parties not to look ahead to 2023. Should he fail to move out of the first round of the Playoffs, it would be that much easier to go through the motions of ending this current campaign so that everyone can begin focusing on next year.
It may be the first change of scenery for Busch since the end of 2007 when he departed Hendrick Motorsports for JGR. This is a highly competitive individual but with the incentive of a possible championship gone, it would be easy to begin directing that competitiveness toward 2023 and his new team
For crew members who might not have a chance of slipping on a championship ring following the season finale at the Phoenix Raceway, why not start directing their energy toward the goal of accomplishing that feat in 2023?
And for the ownership of both JGR and Busch’s new team(if there is one), much work will need to be done in terms of aligning sponsors, crew members, and the many other aspects of the next season.
No matter what the situation, it is virtually impossible for human beings not to look ahead toward some major change in their lives. For a driver likely headed to a new team, for crew members who will be working with a new driver, and for management who will be piecing new deals together, it’s just human nature to have thoughts directed toward the next thing rather than the current thing, especially when the ultimate goal has been removed.
Again, these next two races will go a long way toward determining how Kyle Busch will exit from JGR.
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Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.
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