Had longtime sponsor Mars Inc. and its M&Ms brand decided to continue its NASCAR sponsorship rather than leave the sport after this season, the final years of Kyle Busch’s Cup Series career likely would have gone down like the last 15. – driving the #18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Certainly, there was the likelihood of many more wins to come – and possibly championships – in an already Hall of Fame-worthy career.
But now faced with the reality of having to replace a multi-million dollar sponsorship to cover Busch’s salary as a top driver, JGR was unable to find a comparable option, forcing Busch to explore avenues.
And as has happened many times in NASCAR, the improbable ended up becoming possible.
Busch, 37, announced on Tuesday that he will join Richard Childress Racing from the 2023 season and drive the organization’s No. 8 Chevrolet as a teammate to Austin Dillon and – at least for now – Tyler Reddick , who is expected to move on to a third ace-team still undetermined.
Earlier this season, RCR announced that he had taken the 2023 option on Reddick’s contract to drive the No.8. Shortly after, Reddick informed RCR that he would be joining 23XI Racing in 2024.
Reddick’s early announcement of his plans for 2024 didn’t sit well with the RCR and it’s no wonder this is happening. Reddick has proven to be one of the top up-and-coming talents in the Cup Series, earning his first two series wins this season.
The next RCR champion?
So RCR, which last won a Cup Series championship in 1994 with the late Dale Earnhardt, turned to an equally controversial NASCAR star to help keep its organization on the rise.
It didn’t take long for Childress, who was in attendance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday for Busch’s announcement, to make the comparison.
“When I was up there with Kyle and we started talking and we talked about championships and we talked about winning races, I looked him in the eye and I had seen that look in Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s eyes that he’s hungry – we’re going to win,” Childress said.
“I had seen this look before, and looking at Kyle, I observed his talent since he started in the Busch series (now Xfinity), and how well he handles the car, car control , the way he drives the car and attitude of non-prisoners.
“It’s the Dale Earnhardt style that I used to run with, and I think Kyle has that modern style of running that Dale Earnhardt had in his day.”
When asked what he thought of the comparison with Earnhardt, Busch replied, “Certainly, it’s flattering.” But also pointed out that there is only one Dale Earnhardt.
That’s right, just like there’s only one Kyle Busch and that might just be what RCR needs right now.
Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, M&M’s Toyota Camry
Photo by: Nigel Kinrade/NKP/ Motorsport pictures
Busch said his top priority when it comes to continuing his Cup career was to find an organization where he could win and compete from the start.
It’s a bit late in his career for Busch to become a building block of a new organization and frankly with him still in top form, it would be a waste of talent to do so.
Over the past few seasons RCR has returned to a team that can win races – even more so this year with the launch of the Next Gen car.
That was enough for Busch.
“When we first sat down and discussed this opportunity, it was easy,” Busch said.
“You just have to see their general culture – being around Richard, talking with Austin (Dillon) and getting to see all of what’s been going on with RCR lately, and I felt like it was a no-brainer.”
A complex relationship
To get to this point, Childress and Busch first had to overcome some of their own difficult NASCAR history.
In 2011, Childress, as part of a physical altercation in the Kansas Speedway garage, took off his watch and then punched Busch. NASCAR fined Childress $150,000 and placed him on probation for the remainder of the season, which created the “Hold My Watch” incident.
But as they say, time heals all wounds.
As a “signing bonus,” Childress presented Busch with a new Rolex on Tuesday.
“Do you want to hold my watch?” Childress asked Busch while presenting the gift.
“Absolutely,” Busch replied.
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