Kyle Busch joins RCR, ends tenure with Joe Gibbs Racing

Richard Childress Racing announced Tuesday that Kyle Busch will drive the #8 Chevrolet in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series, ending the two-time champion’s partnership with Joe Gibbs Racing.

The announcement — which took place Tuesday morning at the NASCAR Hall of Fame — means that Bush’s 15th season with Coach Joe Gibbs’ organization will be his last. The 37-year-old won Cup Series titles with the team in 2015 and 2019, and is the JGR winning driver, racking up 56 of his total 60 Cup victories with the 18th team.

“RCR has an impressive history in NASCAR and I am honored that Richard has placed his trust in Lee to attend and continue to build on that legacy,” Busch said in a press release. “Growing up in a family of passionate racers, I feel that the culture the Childress family has built within their organization will be perfect for me. As I begin the next chapter in my career, I look forward to driving for RCR and working with everyone there to add more wins and championships to each of our resumes. “.

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Bosch will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet starting in 2023 on a multi-year deal, with Randall Burnett serving as his crew chief. Tyler Riddick, who currently drives the #8, is still under contract with RCR and will lead the team next year on an as-yet-to-be-announced ride. Reddick had previously announced that he would be driving 23XI Racing starting in 2024.

“The addition of Kyle Busch to the Richard Childress Racing lineup is important, not only to our organization, but to the sport as a whole,” Childress said in a team statement. “Kyle is a proven competitor at the highest levels of the sport, and I believe his experience and dedication to motorsports will elevate our racing program across the board. I have always admired Kyle’s driving style and ability to win and race for championships since he entered the sport. Who wouldn’t want to drive a champ? His NASCAR Cup Series?

Tuesday’s news ends the long-term contract uncertainty that has surrounded the series’ biggest free agent this season. The move also creates a high-profile vacancy for the number 18 ride, the original Gibbs team since their first draft in the Cup Series competition in 1992.

Bush was open about his situation in the weeks leading up to his decision, telling reporters in July at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that he was willing to re-sign with JGR for less than its current value in the free-agent market. That ambition, he said, was overshadowed by the organization’s search for a high-profile sponsor to replace M&M’s/Mars partner. Bush indicated on September 1 at the Cup Series media day that he had many offers to consider, and that the negotiation process had taken its toll.

“Believe me, my intuition isn’t satisfied, and that’s not just about decisions being made, but more about decisions being valued and realizing in how you get to all those you’d be disappointed with, right?” Bush said on Media Day. “There will be one winner, and the rest are not winners, if you look at it in that respect.”

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David Wilson, Toyota Racing Development chief, emphasized the importance of keeping Busch in the auto fold where discussions were ongoing, saying “any other scenario is unacceptable”. Busch ranks as Toyota’s top winner in all three NASCAR National Series with 203 of a total of 224 victories achieved during his time with the manufacturer.

“I mean, Kyle Busch is our 60-home race hitter,” Wilson said on August 27 at Daytona International Speedway. “And we would be foolish not to play everything to keep him in the family.”

Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota are now absorbing Busch’s looming loss of upending the hitting order, and both groups will fill the vacancy. There are a few prospects for a seat in JGR’s Xfinity Series pipeline, including Ty Gibbs – this year’s five-time Xfinity winner who replaced injured Kurt Bosch in the last eight events of the Cup Series.

Kyle Bush laughs after receiving a watch box from Richard Childers
Richard Childress laughs at Kyle Bush when he tells him to “hold my watch” at Tuesday’s press conference. (Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Studios)

“Kyle has been a huge part of our history and success here at Joe Gibbs Racing,” Gibbs said in a team statement. “We are grateful for all of his contributions to our organization over the years. When you look at all he has already accomplished, it is truly remarkable, and we know one day we will celebrate the founding of the Hall of Fame. We also know that he still has many accomplishments in our sport including competing for the championship. This season. We wish Kyle, Samantha, Brixton and Lenx the best.”

The partnership between Childress and Busch – former Hall of Famer, and latter a once-qualified, sure-fire recruit – may seem like an unlikely union. After an escalating series of tense moments between Busch and then-RCR driver Kevin Harvick, Childress confronted Busch after the driver went on a run with Joey Coulter—another former RCR pilot—during the 2011 Camping World Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway. NASCAR officials fined Childress $150,000 and placed him on probation for physical altercation.

Both the driver and team owner have cleared the air during interviews in recent weeks.

“He and I have talked. We have put all our differences behind us for a while and he is a great racing driver,” Childress said on August 28, after Dillon won the regular season final in Daytona. “It will land him on a good ride somewhere, for sure. “

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Bush joked about the long-running braces this past weekend in Kansas.

“Who says he never punched me again in any of these conversations?” Bush said to laugh. “When you get into a negotiation, it’s never fun, so you practice all the time. I think you grow up working through things, and you talk about it again. Really, it was fine the first time I sat down with him. Everything was ok. The most important thing is just to have a chance to put that behind us.”

Kyle Bush rings inset
Kyle Bush wore the 2015 and 2019 NASCAR Cup Series Championship rings at Tuesday’s press conference. (Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Studios)

Kyle Busch qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs with a win earlier this year at Bristol Motor Speedway. That win in April extended his streak with at least one Cup Series win to 18.

Bosch began his career as a prospect for Chevrolet, joining the Cup series full-time in 2005 with Hendrick Motorsports. He had four wins with Rick Hendrik’s No. 5 team before moving to Operation Gibbs in 2008. Only Denny Hamlin, JGR’s No. 11 Camry driver, has joined Gibbs for longer — since joining the Cup series in 2005.

Busch has also enjoyed success on the team ownership side, forming Kyle Busch Motorsports for the Camping World Truck Series in 2010. Since then, he and his driver in the 98 Truck Series have amassed a win and two Drivers’ Championships (Erik Jones in 2015, Christopher Bell in 2017), paving the way for many of the automaker’s best racing prospects. Bosch’s renewed affiliation with Chevrolet on the Trophy series side adds a layer of uncertainty to its 2023 series truck operation.

Childress won six Cup Series tournaments as a team owner, but none since Dale Earnhardt’s last title in 1994. This season was the strongest in Childress’ recent memory; Riddick and Dillon combined for three wins, and both qualified for the Cup Series playoffs.

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