Kyle Busch to leave Gibbs, join RCR for 2023 NASCAR Cup season
Two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch confirmed Tuesday he will join Richard Childress Racing and the Chevrolet camp next season.
In announcement at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., Busch, 37, said he will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet for team owner Richard Childress beginning in the 2023 season.
“This is probably one of the biggest decisions of my life, my career,” Busch said. “I’m thankful to Joe (Gibbs) for allowing me to be a kid and grow into a man. Most days. Most of the time ... Coach, you had my back when I needed it the most. Thank you.”
In a gesture of good will, Childress also offered Busch’s son, Brexton, a future contract option with RCR.
“The addition of Kyle Busch to the Richard Childress Racing lineup is significant, not only for our organization, but for the sport as a whole,” said Childress. “Kyle is a proven contender at the highest levels of the sport, and I believe that his experience and dedication to motorsports will elevate our race program across the board.
“I’ve always admired Kyle’s driving style and his ability to win and race for championships ever since he entered the sport. Who wouldn’t want a proven NASCAR Cup Series Champion driving their car?”
What about Reddick and KBM?
RCR said Tyler Reddick, who currently drives the No. 8 Chevrolet, will continue to serve out the remaining year of his contract in 2023.
The future of Busch’s Kyle Busch Motorsports team remains unclear.
“We’d like to welcome Kyle back to Team Chevy, where he started his NASCAR career,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. Vice President, Performance and Motorsports.
“As a 60 Cup race winner and two-time champion, he will be a valuable addition to Richard Childress Racing and the Chevrolet line-up. We look forward to working with Kyle starting in 2023.”
Busch’s decision ends a very protracted, public and initially unplanned free agency involving one of NASCAR’s top stars and likely future Hall of Fame inductee.
Busch – and by extension his Kyle Busch Motorsports team – has been the anchor of Toyota’s success in all three NASCAR national series for nearly 15 years.
A remarkable career (so far)
Of his 520 career starts in the Cup series, all but 114 have come while driving for JGR and Toyota. In addition, 56 of his 60 career wins – and both series championships – as well as 30 of his 32 career poles have come driving for JGR and Toyota.
Busch also has 102 wins in the Xfinity Series and 62 in the Truck Series. He is the all-time leader in wins in both series.
Busch entered the 2022 Cup season without a contract extension with JGR in large part due to the decision by longtime sponsor Mars Inc. – announced in December 2021 – that it would end its NASCAR sponsorship at the conclusion of the 2022 season.
The two-time Cup champion has been sponsored by M&M Mars since 2008 when he joined JGR and Mars Inc. has been involved in NASCAR sponsorships for more than 25 years.
Since then, JGR has been unable to secure a primary sponsor for Busch’s No. 18 Toyota which would be comparable to the size of the financial investment from Mars Inc., although team officials have said they have come “close” on other prospects.
That has led Busch to exploring options, including those from other manufacturers.
In recent weeks, it was believed Busch was working on two viable options. One was moving to fellow Toyota team 23XI Racing, which is co-owned by Busch’s JGR teammate Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan. That option was expected to cause the least issue with Busch’s KBM organization.
The other was joining RCR, which was looking for a new infusion of top talent after current driver Reddick informed the team in mid-July that he would not return to the organization once his current contract expired at the end of the 2023 season.
A turbulent history
However, Busch has had a not-so-good relationship with RCR owner Richard Childress during his career.
In 2011, Childress got into an altercation with Busch in the garage at Kansas Speedway that resulted in NASCAR fining Childress $150,000 and placing him on probation for the rest of the season.
Asked at Kansas this past weekend how he could consider driving for Childress considering their history, Busch said, “The first time I sat down with him everything was OK and the biggest thing about it was just having the opportunity to put that behind us.”
The inability of JGR to secure a primary sponsor and the lengthy negotiations leading to a new home for Busch in the Cup Series had taken a visible toll on the Las Vegas native in recent weeks.
In an interview last month at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Busch said whatever he decided “There’s a big change coming.”
“Is it worth it to go run around and not have an opportunity to win right away versus building something versus jumping in something that can win? All those questions are certainly being weighed out,” he said then.
“Again, that’s also why it’s not so simple and so easy. So, thankfully there are opportunities out there. There are Cup jobs available. But again, it will not look the same as what it has for the last 15 years.”
Reaction from Joe Gibbs and Toyota
"Toyota and TRD are privileged to have raced with Kyle Busch, one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history. While we certainly wish Kyle the best of luck in the future and congratulate him on his announcement to join Richard Childress Racing, we’re disappointed and saddened that his future won’t continue to be with Team Toyota," said David Wilson, President or Toyota Racing Development.
"Kyle has been an ambassador for Toyota since joining the program in 2008. He’s gone on to accumulate some of the most prestigious milestones possible for the Toyota brand, including our first Cup Series win for the Camry and first Cup Series championship. He will undoubtedly hold the record for the most wins in a Toyota across all three Championship Series for decades to come. But more than that, Kyle has been a friend, part of our family and has played a key role in the development of many of our drivers through his ownership of Kyle Busch Motorsports.
"We wish nothing but the best for Kyle and his entire family as he moves into the next chapter of his Hall of Fame career. We’re thankful to have been along for the ride."
From Joe Gibbs: “Kyle has been a major part of our history and success here at Joe Gibbs Racing. We are thankful for all his contributions to our organization over the years. When you look at all that he has accomplished already, it is truly remarkable, and we know someday we will be celebrating his Hall of Fame induction. We also know he still has many more achievements in our sport ahead of him including competing for the championship this season. We wish Kyle, Samantha, Brexton, and Lennix the very best.”
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