NASCAR: Why Kyle Busch couldn’t easily pull a ‘Tom Brady’

Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR - Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports /

While it was always possible, leaving a team and manufacturer after 15 years was never going to be as easy for Kyle Busch as it would be for any other NASCAR Cup Series driver.

The 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season is the final season covered under Kyle Busch’s current contract with Joe Gibbs Racing, and his future with a new organization, Richard Childress Racing, is set to be confirmed tomorrow morning.

Before the season began, M&M’s announced that this would be their final season as the primary sponsor of Busch and the #18 Toyota, and his cryptic remarks at Talladega Superspeedway in April added to the speculation that he may not be back for a 16th season with Joe Gibbs’s organization next year.

There had been some optimism surrounding this situation, but what was once a promising sponsorship development ended up falling through.

And the 37-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada native was always going to be in an interesting position if he and the team couldn’t work out a new deal.

Busch had been linked to a number of other teams over the last few months, and he was very open about the fact that he had had talks with rival organizations.

In fact, he even stated that multiple teams, including Joe Gibbs Racing, had made him an offer for 2023.

One such landing spot that had been brought up was Stewart-Haas Racing. But while the Ford team were once “guaranteed” to have an open seat for 2023 with Aric Almirola set to retire at the end of the 2022 season, Almirola decided to put off retirement, which caused that possibility to fade.

More recently, Chevrolet teams Kaulig Racing and Richard Childress Racing entered the mix, with the latter ultimately winning out and now being set to land his services next year.

But Busch leaving a team with which he won multiple championships in 15 seasons and joining another outfit to wrap up his career was never going to be as simple as pulling a “Tom Brady”.

Outside from the Joe Gibbs Racing-affiliated 23XI Racing, there are no other Toyota organizations in the Cup Series. While a departure from Joe Gibbs Racing could very well have sent him to a Joe Gibbs Racing-affiliated team, 23XI Racing didn’t have any seats open for 2023 throughout this process.

Kurt Busch’s health had become a recent focal point, which could very well result in the #45 Toyota being vacated a year early, but since multiple teams had already offered Busch a contract for 2023, it’s hard to imagine the Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan-owned outfit being one of them, unless they — and Kurt — know something that has been kept under wraps entirely.

So it appeared that only a manufacturer switch could keep Busch at NASCAR’s top level, and that is indeed what is slated to happen.

But such a switch was always going to make things far more complicated than usual, and that is due to his Truck Series team: Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Kyle Busch Motorsports have long played a huge role for Toyota in terms of developing young, talented drivers who have gone on to make names for themselves in the Xfinity Series and Cup Series.

So with Busch switching manufacturers as a driver, that inherently means Kyle Busch Motorsports need to switch as well.

As a 60-time Cup Series race winner and two-time champion, Busch was sure to command a hefty salary to sign with an organization outside Joe Gibbs Racing, even though he did admit that he was willing to take a pay cut to remain where he is now.

But a separate multi-million-dollar paycheck was then also needed to result in Kyle Busch Motorsports switching from Toyota to a new manufacturer.

Busch recently spoke about this scenario and admitted that this is the factor that has played the biggest role in holding things up. Here’s what he had to say, according to NBC Sports.

"“I would say that the Truck Series option with Kyle Busch Motorsports has probably made this situation, 80-85% harder than just me. I would have been done by now if it was just me.”"

Busch leaving Joe Gibbs Racing and joining another manufacturer’s organization was always possible. But this process was never as simple as him “switching teams” like it would be for most other drivers in the sport — or even athletes in other sports.

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With that being said, that fact that Busch was so candid about Kyle Busch Motorsports being the reason for the holdup basically confirmed that he was planning on making the switch — prior to the actual confirmation. As a result, the unexpected turned into a reality, and there’s a reason Busch described 2022 as a “hard as hell” year.