It’s official. Kyle Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing tenure is over after the 2022 season.
Busch announced Tuesday that he would be heading to Richard Childress Racing in 2023. The announcement came after reports emerged Saturday that Busch would be leaving his longtime Cup Series home for RCR next season. Busch, 37, has been at Joe Gibbs Racing since 2008.
Busch said he wanted to find a place where he could win races right away and “also needed a place where I could hit reset and be welcomed as who I am.”
RCR owner Richard Childress handed Busch a watch and jokingly asked Busch to hold it for him. Childress infamously punched Busch in 2011 after Busch had contact with an RCR driver in a Truck race. Childress allegedly took off his watch and handed it to grandson Austin Dillon before he confronted Busch.
The move to RCR comes after longtime sponsor M&M Mars announced that it would be leaving Busch’s No. 18 car at the end of 2022. The company made the announcement in the months before the season and seemingly left the team ample time to find sponsorship for Busch.
That sponsorship, however, never materialized for whatever reason. Busch, the winningest driver ever across NASCAR's top three series, is now heading to a team that hasn’t won a title since the 1990s with Dale Earnhardt. JGR will likely promote team owner Joe Gibbs’ grandson Ty to replace Busch.
“Toyota and TRD are privileged to have raced with Kyle Busch, one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history," Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson said in a statement. "While we certainly wish Kyle the best of luck in the future and congratulate him on his announcement to join Richard Childress Racing, we’re disappointed and saddened that his future won’t continue to be with Team Toyota. Kyle’s been an ambassador for Toyota since joining the program in 2008. He’s gone on to accumulate some of the most prestigious milestones possible for the Toyota brand, including our first Cup Series win for the Camry and first Cup Series championship. He will undoubtedly hold the record for the most wins in a Toyota across all three Championship Series for decades to come.”
Busch said he would drive the No. 8 car for RCR in 2023. That puts the immediate future of Tyler Reddick in limbo. Reddick, who has two wins in 2022 in the No. 8, announced this summer that he was heading to Toyota's 23XI Racing in 2024. Childress said he informed Reddick an hour before Busch's announcement that Busch would be taking over the No. 8 car and said that Reddick would be a part of the team.
Childress later confirmed that his team would expand to three cars — with three charters — to accommodate Reddick staying with the team in 2022. It's currently unclear what team RCR will buy a third charter from.
Kyle Busch Motorsports switching to Chevrolet
Busch's Truck Series team has been a stalwart for Toyota in the 2000s and is also leaving the manufacturer. While Busch didn't have any specifics about his truck team on Tuesday, he made it clear that the truck team would still be running in 2023.
"Kyle Busch Motorsports intends to compete in the Truck Series as a Chevrolet-branded team next year," Busch said.
KBM could look a lot different with Chevrolet. Many of its drivers have come through the Toyota pipeline and drivers like Chandler Smith, John Hunter Nemechek and Corey Heim may not be making the move to Chevy with Busch because of their Toyota ties.
Are Busch and Keselowski’s moves the sign of a new trend?
Busch’s move to RCR follows the 2021 offseason move of Brad Keselowski to the now-renamed Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. Keselowski, the 2012 Cup Series champ, received a minority stake in the team as part of his switch from Team Penske.
Five years ago it would have seemed unfathomable for two champions in the past decade to leave for teams that didn’t have recent title success. But the new Cup Series car might be a sign of a market reset. The new car is built largely with parts from single-source vendors and is designed to narrow the ability for richer teams to outspend teams with smaller pockets.
And so far, the parity the car was designed for has played out in the winner’s circle. Eighteen drivers have won over the first 28 races of the season and RCR has posted its winningest season since when Kevin Harvick had four wins in 2013.
While its impossible to overlook the financial aspects of Busch and Keselowski’s deals as well — both Penske and JGR had cheaper in-house replacements — their moves could telegraph the future parity that NASCAR desires in the Cup Series. While teams like Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing will likely always stay at the top of the heap as long as they’re around, Busch and Keselowski could show that the chasm between them and everyone else is narrowing.