Many have assumed that Ty Gibbs would replace Kyle Busch if Busch doesn’t return to Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.
After a quiet few months to start the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season in regard to the driver market, Kyle Busch got the silly season rumor mill heated up with several short comments about his contract situation with Joe Gibbs Racing back in late April at Talladega Superspeedway.
The 37-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada native is in a contract year with Joe Gibbs’s team, but before the season began, longtime partner M&M’s announced that they would not be returning to the #18 Toyota for the 2023 campaign.
Busch’s comments have led to some intriguing speculation about his future — or lack thereof — in the Cup Series. While many believe that he and Joe Gibbs Racing will figure things out and reach an agreement for 2023, including Gibbs himself as well as Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson, there is still an element of uncertainty.
But the one thing that many have believed is certain is Busch’s replacement, if he does indeed lose his ride.
Ty Gibbs, Joe Gibbs’s grandson, is sitting pretty in the Xfinity Series, and a Cup Series promotion seems to be a matter of when, not if.
After winning four races in 18 starts, including his first career start, as a part-time driver last year, all while putting together an ARCA Menard Series championship-winning season during which he won 10 races in 20 starts, he was promoted to full-time driver for 2022.
Through 14 races this year, he sits atop the playoff picture with a series-high three victories, and while he has been involved in a number of controversies both on and off the track, there is no doubt that the talent is there.
Gibbs is poised for a Cup Series promotion, and while the goal is for him to run two full seasons in the Xfinity Series first, many consider him to be a shoo-in for Busch if a deal doesn’t come together for the two-time champion.
However, even if Busch returns, could Gibbs still find himself in the Cup Series next year — and with Joe Gibbs Racing?
What seemed to have dropped off the radar — until this past weekend — were the comments made by Martin Truex Jr. at the end of March.
Like Busch, Truex is also in a contract year, and after speaking about the matter again over the weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, he remains uncertain about his future — or lack thereof — in the Cup Series beyond the 2022 season.
While sponsorship isn’t the concern here, there is still a chance that this will be his fourth and final year behind the wheel of the #19 Toyota; the decision appears to be completely up to Truex, based on his comments.
Truex said back in March — and again over the weekend — that a decision would likely be coming “soon”, specifying last weekend that it should be coming within the next couple of weeks.
He added that there are many things for him to consider before he makes that decision. But since Joe Gibbs Racing already have Busch’s situation to deal with, they would like to get things squared away with Truex to avoid the ongoing uncertainty.
It may be considered a surprise if Truex doesn’t return for another year. But if he does leave, perhaps it won’t be Busch whom Gibbs replaces at his grandfather’s team; perhaps it would be Truex.
However, would a Truex departure really lead the team to abandon the goal of running Gibbs for two full seasons in the Xfinity Series first?
Regardless, Joe Gibbs Racing are slated to play a massive role in how silly season plays out. If they make any significant changes to their driver lineup, Ty Gibbs could benefit.
And even if no changes are made, that could play to Gibbs’s advantage as well. Assuming Busch gets a new deal, he doesn’t appear to be close to retirement. But perhaps a Truex return would only be for one more year, in which case Gibbs would have a clear destination in mind for 2024 following two full Xfinity Series seasons.