Comments from Joe Gibbs on both Kyle Busch and Ty Gibbs seem to shed some light on the plans for his NASCAR Cup Series team in 2023.
There has been significant uncertainty surrounding Joe Gibbs Racing’s driver lineup for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season as of late, specifically as it relates to two-time champion Kyle Busch and the #18 Toyota.
Busch, now in his 15th season with the team, is in a contract year, and before the season began, he and the team were hit with the rather surprising news that longtime primary partner M&M’s would not be returning to the #18 Toyota in 2023, leaving a massive hole to fill from a sponsorship standpoint.
However, all parties want to have Busch back for at least another year in 2023. Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson and team owner Joe Gibbs remain optimistic that a new deal will get done, especially given a recent development regarding a prospective new sponsor.
Here is what Gibbs had to say about the matter earlier this week, according to The Charlotte Observer.
"“We’re really confident that we’re going to have that car squared away, sponsorship-wise, and we’re trying to work on our deal right now with Kyle. So I think we feel good about it.”"
But perhaps the most interesting part of his statement was about his grandson, Ty Gibbs. Ty is in his first full season competing in the Xfinity Series for his grandfather’s team this year, and he appears poised for a promotion to the Cup Series organization at some point in the near future.
While many believe that the 19-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina native could be promoted as early as 2023, specifically if Busch ends up losing his seat, Coach Gibbs indicated that the plan is for him to run two full seasons at NASCAR’s second highest level to avoid rushing him.
"“We want to be real careful, take our time, and so really our goal was to keep him in Xfinity for two years, and so this is his first year really. I think he’s had 23 or 24 Xfinity races, so the game plan is two years for sure in Xfinity. Make sure we don’t rush him.”"
Ty has competed in 30 Xfinity Series over the last two years, including 18 as a part-time driver last year and 12 so far this year in his first season as a full-time driver.
He won four races in 2021 and would have been a championship contender had he been playoff eligible (he ran full-time in the ARCA Menards Series and won the championship instead), and he has won three races so far in 2022 to establish himself as a serious title threat.
So if the goal of keeping Ty in the Xfinity Series for another year is met, we can’t ignore the situation of Martin Truex Jr.
What these comments also may indicate is that Truex Jr., who is also in a contract year with Joe Gibbs Racing, plans to return for the 2023 season, which would be his fifth season behind the wheel of the #19 Toyota.
He indicated in late March that a decision would be made “pretty soon”, but nothing has been formally announced. He very well could have decided already, though there has been no confirmation.
Why? Because if Truex leaves, that could still result in a promotion for Ty after just one full Xfinity Series season anyway, even if Busch stays. Who would drive Joe Gibbs Racing’s fourth car otherwise, somebody completely unexpected?
This whole quote appears to indicate that Joe Gibbs Racing do not plan to make any changes to their driver lineup for 2023, retaining both Busch and Truex as well as Denny Hamlin behind the wheel of the #11 Toyota and Christopher Bell behind the wheel of the #20 Toyota.
As for Ty, what about 2024? If there is still no room for him at Joe Gibbs Racing’s NASCAR Cup Series team at that time, perhaps a third year in the Xfinity Series or a promotion to the Joe Gibbs Racing-affiliated 23XI Racing Cup Series team is in the cards instead of a direct promotion to the four-car Toyota powerhouse.