CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BVM) – After several months of speculation, NASCAR fans finally have their answer as to who Kyle Busch will race for next season. On Tuesday, Busch officially announced that he will be joining Richard Childress Racing (RCR) in 2023.
“This is probably one of the biggest days of my life, of my career,” Busch said during his announcement on Tuesday. “The last few months have been nothing but stressful, I’ll admit. It’s been 15 years since I’ve had to make a decision like this … At the end of the day, one team and one owner emerged as the clear choice. The second I sat down with him, I knew that his company, his people and the culture around there have the ability to compete for championships from day one.
“So now for the moment you all couldn’t wait for, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be taking my talents to Welcome, North Carolina to drive the No. 8 car for Richard Childress Racing starting in 2023.”
A Championship Tradition continues in 2023. pic.twitter.com/uC00r1T0Ob
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) September 13, 2022
One of NASCAR’s most popular drivers, Busch has spent the past 15 years in the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), winning 56 of his 60 Cup Series victories, as well as both of his Cup Series championships (2015 and 2019).
However, over the past several months, it became increasingly apparent that Busch’s time with his longtime team could soon be over.
At the end of 2021, Busch’s longtime sponsor, Mars, Incorporated, announced it would be ending its sponsorship with the Las Vegas native and leaving NASCAR altogether. With Busch in the final year of his contract with JGR, it put both the team and the driver in an interesting spot entering the 2022 season.
About a quarter of the way through the campaign, speculation arose further after Busch was very vague during a media session regarding what his future held and his status with JGR. However, in the ensuing months, Joe Gibbs, along with members of his race team, ensured they were still trying to work on a new contract with Busch as well as find him a new sponsor for 2023.
The 15-year JGR driver also made it appear he was hoping for a return when he announced he was willing to take less money in order to stay with the team during qualifying at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in late July.
“I don’t think money has ever been the objective or the issue,” Busch said. “Obviously, I know where the sport’s landscape is. I know what’s happening. And I’ve accepted (taking a smaller salary). And have told everybody that. I’m trying to see where all that lies.”
As the summer wore on, things seemed to change yet again. Leading up to the race at Watkins Glen in mid-August, fellow NASCAR driver Corey LaJoie claimed on his podcast, “Stacking Pennies,” that Busch would not be back with JGR in 2023 and would be replaced by Gibbs’ grandson, Ty.
“Kyle Busch isn’t driving the 18,” Lajoie said. “It’s not happening. I hate it for the Kyle Busch fan. He will find a job somewhere. Hearing some rumors, there are certainly offers on the table. Two potential Chevy teams. A potential Ford team. And there’s also an option potentially with Toyota. But I think we’re going to see our little buddy in the 18, guys. That’s just the way it is.”
As the calendar turned to September, Busch revealed he had several offers on the table to leave JGR.
.@KyleBusch on his 2023 plans, says they’re coming soon. Possibly between 7-10 days.
— Noah Lewis (@Noah_Lewis1) September 1, 2022
Some of the teams rumored as fits for Busch included 23XI Racing where Busch may have driven a third Toyota car for the team, or perhaps taken over the No. 45 car belonging to his older brother, Kurt, who has yet to be medically cleared to race following concussion-like symptoms suffered during a crash in qualifying at Pocono.
Kaulig Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing also seemed like potential landing spots for the 60-time Cup Series race winner. However, by this past weekend, reports surfaced that Richard Childress Racing had become the favorite for Kyle, with The Athletic’s Jordan Bianchi being the first to break the news.
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) September 9, 2022
On Sunday night, Kyle posted on Twitter that an official announcement on his future would be made on Tuesday.
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) September 12, 2022
Now, after months of uncertainty, Kyle can finally look ahead to his future. He is expected to drive a third car for RCR in 2023, taking over in the No. 8 Chevrolet alongside the No. 3 Chevy of Austin Dillon. Tyler Reddick, who will be joining 23XI in 2024, will remain under contract with RCR next year, but will drive a different car. Kyle’s crew chief in the No. 8 will be Randall Burnett as he begins driving a Chevy in the Cup Series for the first time since 2007 when he was still with Hendrick Motorsports.
Kyle joining RCR is surprising in some regards, primarily due to some of the run-ins he has had with his new team. The most notable came in 2011 at Kansas Speedway in which Childress and his new driver got into a physical altercation, resulting in a $150,000 fine for Childress while also being placed on probation for the rest of the season.
Time heals all wounds, and it is clear Childress and Kyle are in a better place over a decade later. Regardless of their relationship, RCR is getting one of the most talented drivers currently in the sport.
Kyle is coming off a 26th-place finish at Kansas this past weekend, but despite just one win and season lows in most categories in 2022 as he has dealt with the uncertainty of his future, he has been one of NASCAR’s premier drivers over the past two decades.
His 60 Cup Series wins are tied for ninth all time with another active driver in Kevin Harvick. Meanwhile, Kyle is the only driver ever to rack up 60 or more victories in each of NASCAR’s three series, as he holds all-time bests with 62 wins in the Camping World Truck Series and 102 wins in the Xfinity Series.
— Xfinity Racing (@XfinityRacing) April 18, 2022
Meanwhile, as Kyle begins the next chapter of his racing career, JGR will also begin a new era. The main snag in not coming to terms with Kyle was evidently not being able to find a new sponsor for the No. 18 car. It was also reported that JGR would save $10 million in annual salary by letting its 15-year driver walk.
At the same time, JGR seems to have an up-and-coming replacement with 19-year-old Ty waiting in the wings. An ARCA Menards Series champion in 2021, Ty also won four Xfinity Series races last year, and has taken the checkered flag in five more in 2022.
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) August 6, 2022
Ironically, he has filled in for Kyle’s older brother, Kurt, in the Cup Series over the past couple of months, driving the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI. Overall, he has been impressive, finishing 17th or better in five of his eight races.
While many initially expected it wouldn’t be until 2024 that Ty came up to NASCAR’s main series, it appears the future is now. It’s a future that’s bright for JGR, but RCR has a bright future outlook as well. Time will tell if any bad blood remains between Kyle, Ty or their respective teams down the road. But for now, one of NASCAR’s ugliest breakups seems to have come to an end, with both parties likely in a better place.