NASCAR: Kyle Busch news raises big question about Joe Gibbs Racing

Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

Sponsorship for Kyle Busch’s No. 8 Richard Childress Racing team is “nearly sold out” for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

In arguably the biggest NASCAR Cup Series free agency move in the last decade and a half, two-time champion Kyle Busch announced in September that he would be leaving Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota to join Richard Childress Racing and reunite with Chevrolet.

After the 2021 season ended, longtime primary sponsor M&M’s announced that they would be leaving Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team following the 2022 season.

At the time, a new contract with Busch was still seen as a matter of when, not it, and Busch even indicated that he didn’t see himself competing elsewhere if a new deal wasn’t signed. But as time passed, it looked as though change was coming.

What was once seen as a promising sponsorship development fell through, and it looked as though Joe Gibbs Racing and Busch would indeed be going their separate ways.

Reigning Xfinity Series champion Ty Gibbs, the grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs, is set to replace Busch, but behind the wheel of the No. 54 Toyota. For the first time since Joe Gibbs Racing entered the Cup Series in 1992, they will not run the No. 18 Toyota in 2023.

But throughout the process of determining Busch’s future, Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota insisted that they were doing everything they could do to keep the 37-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada native behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota for a 16th season.

Kyle Busch, however, seemed to indicate that Joe Gibbs Racing had already made the decision to go in a different direction for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.

Naturally, everybody kind of figured involved Gibbs and his longtime primary sponsor, Monster Energy, and it did.

But given the latest news on Busch, you really have to wonder what all went into Joe Gibbs Racing’s decision not to re-sign him and whether it really came down to lack of sponsorship following the departure of M&M’s.

Netspend recently signed with Richard Childress Racing to serve as the primary sponsor of Busch’s No. 8 Chevrolet in a handful of races during the 2023 season, and with that, primary sponsorship for the No. 8 team is “nearly sold out” for the upcoming 36-race campaign.

Several other companies, including 3CHI, Cheddar’s, Alsco, BetMGM, and Lenovo, have already signed to sponsor Busch’s entry throughout the season.

Perhaps Joe Gibbs Racing weren’t willing to find multiple primary sponsors to cover the entire season like Richard Childress Racing are doing.

Gibbs is set to retain Monster Energy as a primary sponsor when he moves to the Cup Series, and they are set to sponsor him in a “strong capacity”, so the need for additional sponsorship for the No. 54 team is minimal, if even existent at all.

But would Joe Gibbs Racing really cast aside a two-time champion for a 20-year-old for this reason alone, especially after making clear that they wanted Gibbs to spend two full seasons in the Xfinity Series first — and the fact that two of their other three drivers are 42 years old and likely nearing the end of their careers?

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It seems quite clear that Busch’s marketability was never the biggest issue, otherwise he wouldn’t have a growing list of companies lined up to sponsor his new entry with Richard Childress Racing.