NASCAR: JGR confirmation shows Kyle Busch’s ‘retirement’ was legitimate

Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Kyle Busch said he’d retire from the NASCAR Xfinity Series after reaching 100 wins in the series, a number he reached last year.

Kyle Busch had said for years that he would step away from competing in NASCAR Xfinity Series races once he eclipsed the 100-win mark in the series.

He had even joked that NASCAR and the fans wanted to keep him there longer, which is why NASCAR kept reducing the number of Xfinity Series races in which full-time Cup Series drivers could compete.

In 2017, that number was 10. In 2018, it was reduced to seven. In 2020, it was further reduced to five.

Entering the 2021 season, Busch had 97 wins to his name.

And that number would have been 98 had his winning car not failed post-race inspection at Texas Motor Speedway in July 2020.

He was lined up to compete in five races for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021 at the following tracks: Circuit of the Americas, Texas Motor Speedway, Nashville Superspeedway, Road America, and Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Despite his dominance, he had interestingly never won 60% of his races in any of his first 18 Xfinity Series seasons. Yet many believed that he would hit the century mark at some point in 2021 anyway.

And he did just that — with two races to spare.

He earned his 100th career victory at Nashville Superspeedway last June. While he had said that he would retire after hitting that mark, he also made clear that, because he was already lined up to compete at Road America and Atlanta Motor Speedway, he would finish out his schedule instead of just walking away.

After winning both of those races as well, he finished the year five for five, giving him 102 career wins.

But some had a tough time believing that he would just walk away from Xfinity Series competition, where he has never had an issue with “beating up on” some of the young guys and dominating races at the sport’s second highest level.

Let’s not forget the fact that he had been the driving force of NASCAR continuing to tighten restrictions on Cup Series drivers competing in the series. These restrictions were even dubbed the “Kyle Busch rule”.

However, he continued to make clear that this was it; after 19 years, he had done all he had wanted to do in the series.

As for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Xfinity Series team, they still run the “star car” in 2022, though it is run as a third car and not a fourth after they downsized.

Brandon Jones is in his fifth season behind the wheel of the #19 Toyota. Harrison Burton, who drove the #20 Toyota in 2020 and 2021, moved to the Cup Series, replacing now-Truck Series driver Matt DiBenedetto behind the wheel of the #21 Ford at Wood Brothers Racing. Joe Gibbs Racing opted not to run the #20 Toyota at all in 2022.

2021 series champion Daniel Hemric left the team to replace now-Cup Series driver Justin Haley behind the wheel of the #11 Chevrolet at Kaulig Racing, initially leaving the #18 Toyota without a driver after Hemric spent just one year with the team and won the title.

Ty Gibbs, who was the primary driver of the “star car” in 2021, is now a full-time driver. He drives the #54 Toyota, which had previously been the “star car”.

With Hemric’s departure, the #18 Toyota has instead become the “star car”, and seven drivers have already driven it in the season’s first 16 races. Six of those drivers are set to make a combined 15 more starts over the season’s final 17 races.

Is filling in from time to time completely out of the question for Busch? Probably not, if team owner Joe Gibbs needs him.

But with all things considered, this won’t be the case this year. Just look at how often the other Joe Gibbs Racing Cup Series drivers compete in the Xfinity Series — not very often.

Less than five months into the season, there are only two more races for which the “star car” doesn’t have a confirmed driver for 2022, following a number of recent announcements.

The most recent announcement confirmed that Ryan Truex, who competed in four races behind the wheel of the #18 Toyota earlier this season, is set to add to his schedule by competing in today’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway — the site of Busch’s most recent Xfinity Series start.

While there are still two races left for which a driver of the #18 Toyota hasn’t been confirmed, this race was the final legitimate possibility for Busch in 2022.

So we can officially say that Busch has indeed retired from Xfinity Series competition.

One of the two remaining races for which a driver of the #18 Toyota hasn’t yet been confirmed is the late regular season race at Darlington Raceway. But this is a race in which Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin usually competes.

The other race is the round of 12 playoff race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, a race in which Busch is not eligible to compete since he is a full-time Cup Series driver.

So the seat of the “star car” does still need to be filled for a couple more events. But while it may come as a surprise to some who initially doubted Busch’s promise, he won’t be the man who fills it.

We can’t neglect to mention the fact that Busch didn’t stop competing in the lower series altogether; he still plans to run five races per year for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series, and he did just that in 2022. He made his fifth and final start of the year at Sonoma Raceway last month.

Next. 5 possible Kyle Busch Xfinity replacements. dark

If it holds true, which it should, that Busch does not compete in the Xfinity Series at all this year, it would make the 2022 season the first season since the 2002 season in which he made no starts in the series — and he only made his series debut in 2003.