Without a doubt, the biggest piece of news involving a driver moving from one team to another this past season was that of Kyle Busch parting ways with longtime team Joe Gibbs Racing then ultimately landing at Richard Childress Racing. The 37-year-old star has compiled one of the most impressive records in NASCAR history with two Cup Series championships and 60 wins at the top level of the sport to his credit. And all of that has been accomplished before the age that has often been considered the prime of a racer’s career.
Now, for the second time in his career, Busch will be adjusting to new surroundings. The Las Vegas native moved from Hendrick Motorsports, where he won four races as a full-time driver from 2005 to 2007, to JGR at the beginning of the 2008 campaign. And now he moves to RCR. Even for a veteran competitor there is a period of adjustment when making such a change.
“I’ve been over there a few times already,” Busch explained during a media availability prior to the NASCAR Awards Banquet. “Things are progressing, getting into the system and seeing what’s there and what they have and who the people are. It’s been good, got some seats over there, got some seats in cars. We’ve been going over some of the lay of the land with that and looking at how their leg boards are different, their knee knockers are different. We’re trying to get the driver comfort stuff set inside the race car so we can be all ready to go as soon as we can.”
All teams involved are working together as RCR’s former driver, Tyler Reddick, moves to the Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan-owned 23XI Racing operation and Busch comes to the Welcome, NC-based team.
“We’re working together, JGR and RCR,” Busch pointed out. “All my driver gear, the seats and everything, it’s already done, it’s there. Reddick’s seats, obviously they will go over to 23XI and my seats and stuff will come over. With this new car(Next Gen), all the stuff just drops right in.”
Busch’s time at JGR didn’t end on a particularly good note. In his final campaign in the No. 18 Toyota, a total of 14 finishes outside the top-20 were registered including one disqualification. After so much previous success, it was a disappointing ending.
It was a bitter pill to swallow.
“Definitely,” Busch replied when asked if he was at peace with how his time at JGR ended. “It’s obviously been challenging, not just this year but the last little while, so it’s kind of been a blessing in disguise, honestly. I felt like we had a lot of strong runs this year. We had races where we could’ve won but we didn’t and that’s very frustrating. We got good at giving them away. It’s time for a fresh start, trying for something new and something different.”
A comparison to a pair of famous quarterbacks who won championships with two separate teams gives Busch inspiration as he goes into his new venture.
“I’m looking at it from the Tom Brady/Peyton Manning aspect where they left great teams, great organizations where they won championships, then they went on and were able to win championships somewhere else,” he said. “I’d like to think that I still have that opportunity to do that with RCR. I look at the opportunity with the new Next Gen race car as an easier move to make, now, with that versus years past with previous generation cars so I think it’s going to be, honestly, a lateral move.”
Busch’s lone victory in 2022 came when he slipped by the spinning cars of Tyler Reddick and Chase Briscoe on the last lap to capture the Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The driver who has turned in numerous dominant performances over the course of his career wants more win in which he leaves no doubt that he was the rightful victor.
“I need to get back to earning them instead of stealing them,” Busch declared. “That’s what I’m looking forward to going forward.”
While his tenure at JGR came to a disappointing end, he looks forward to running up front more often in 2023.
“There’s a lot of different things that went on behind the scenes but the fact of the matter is that it is what it is,” Busch stated. “I don’t think I have anything to prove where I need to have a chip on my shoulder. I just want to go out there and run well again. It’s the ‘Kyle Busch Factor’ in that you want to be able to go out there and run well and be fast and be competitive and win races and lead laps and compete for the championship.”
Richard Childress Racing was once a championship contending powerhouse when Dale Earnhardt occupied the driver’s seat of their famed No. 3 Chevrolet. This past year, both of that company’s drivers made it to the NASCAR Playoffs but were unable to advance past the ‘Round of 12’. Perhaps the addition of their new driver will once again return this organization to championship status.
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Richard Allen has been covering NASCAR and other forms of motorsports since 2008.
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