Kyle Busch reportedly won’t be racing for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2023.
According to The Athletic, Busch, 37, is heading to Richard Childress Racing next season in one of the biggest NASCAR free agent moves of the last decade. Busch’s departure from JGR comes as he’s racing for the championship in 2022 and longtime sponsor M&M Mars announced it wouldn’t be returning to his car in 2023.
That announcement left JGR scrambling for sponsorship for one of the most successful and recognizable drivers in the Cup Series. And as no companies met the team’s asking price over the course of the season, Busch started talking to other teams and a move away from the team got more and more real.
Busch’s move to RCR will be announced on Tuesday, according to the report.
Busch has gotten 56 of his 60 Cup Series victories with JGR and won two championships with the team. After he moved to JGR from Hendrick Motorsports in 2008 and became one of the best drivers in NASCAR, it felt nearly impossible that he would ever leave the team as he became the winningest driver across NASCAR’s top three series.
The move is a huge coup for RCR after it saw Tyler Reddick sign a deal with 23XI Racing for the 2024 season. The Toyota team announced Reddick’s move over the summer and clearly took the team by surprise; RCR issued a terse statement after Reddick left.
RCR is most famous for the six championships Dale Earnhardt won with the team and hasn’t gotten back to those heights in recent years. An RCR driver hasn’t finished in the top 10 in the points standings since Ryan Newman was a surprising second in 2014, but there are signs that the team can be much more competitive in NASCAR’s new car era. Reddick has scored the first two wins of his career in 2022 and currently ranks fifth in the standings while Austin Dillon qualified for the playoffs with a win in the final race of the regular season in Daytona. Adding Busch can immediately make the team a title contender again.
Busch’s addition also comes over a decade after he and Richard Childress had an infamous run-in at Kansas. Childress confronted Busch after a 2011 Truck Series race and allegedly put Busch in a headlock and landed a few punches after Busch tangled with an RCR driver during the race.
Who replaces Busch at JGR? What happens to Reddick?
JGR, meanwhile, will likely replace Busch with Ty Gibbs, the grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs. Ty Gibbs made his Cup Series debut earlier this season as an injury replacement for Kurt Busch and has finished in the top 20 in five of his seven Cup starts as Busch’s sub. Ty Gibbs is a much cheaper alternative than Busch and can attract sponsors who aren’t spending as much as they would otherwise to pay Busch’s salary. As a two-time Cup Series champion, Busch has earned the right to command a salary among the top drivers in NASCAR and with an inexpensive in-house option, JGR had some flexibility.
Reddick’s future is also up in the air. He could stay with RCR for another season while he’s still under contract if the team expands to three cars, or he could be in need of a ride for 2023. 23XI Racing currently fields two cars for Bubba Wallace and Kurt Busch, though Kurt’s return to the Cup Series is still unclear. He hasn’t announced when he will be back after his July concussion at Pocono.
The future of Kyle Busch Motorsports is also another question mark. Busch has operated an incredibly successful Truck Series team backed by Toyota since 2010 and his trucks have won 98 races across 764 starts. That Toyota relationship will disappear with a move to Chevy and any potential changes to KBM could fundamentally alter NASCAR’s No. 3 series.