Busch leaves JGR to join RCR, what led to this moment, why Busch was attracted to RCR, what about KMB, what happens to Reddick? All that answered here

11 years ago, Richard Childress minced the words “hold his watch” as he went after Kyle Busch at the Kansas Speedway following a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Now, that watch just became a signing bonus.

Childress just made one of the biggest signings of Richard Childress Racing history.

RCR has successfully landed Kyle Busch to drive one of their cars for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season. Busch, 37, is the only active driver in the garage to have won multiple Cup Series championships and one that’s reached victory lane 60 times at NASCAR’s top level.

“The addition of Kyle Busch to the Richard Childress Racing lineup is significant, not only for our organization, but for the sport as a whole,” said Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of Richard Childress Racing. “Kyle is a proven contender at the highest levels of the sport, and I believe that his experience and dedication to motorsports will elevate our race program across the board. I’ve always admired Kyle’s driving style and his ability to win and race for championships ever since he entered the sport. Who wouldn’t want a proven NASCAR Cup Series Champion driving their car?”

So how did we get here? How did a driver of Busch’s caliber end up at RCR, a team that’s not won a championship since 1994 or had a driver finish in the top 10 of the final standings since 2014?

It all started last winter when Mars announced that they wouldn’t be returning to JGR at seasons end. They thought by making that word known early, it would give JGR and Toyota time to find a suitable replacement sponsor to keep on the No. 18 Toyota.

At the time, it seemed like a big loss, but didn’t fell all too massive in the fact that this was Kyle Busch that we’re talking about here. No way JGR was going to let a superstar of his stature get away.

But, as the months went on, it grew more and more known that Busch could indeed walk away at seasons end. There was a lot to consider here in the process.

Money was a big thing. If he wanted to stay with JGR he had to take a lot less money. Busch knew that if he was going to do so, some lifestyle changes off track would have to then incur. Would be fair to his family to be away 36 weekend’s out of a year and making less money?

Another factor was his Truck Series team. If he leaves Toyota, he’d have to change the entire team too. They’d have to go to Ford or Chevrolet which as a result, would take some planning to do so.

His team is the top Toyota team and KBM houses a lot of Toyota developmental drivers. By leaving, it affects a lot of dominos. Busch’s Truck team has been with Toyota since 2010 and has won 98 times in 765 races.

Also this new contract would be one that Busch doesn’t want to have to go through again. This contract would shape him for the rest of his career and help his Truck team for the future as well.

He’s thinking long-term. He’s thinking down the road to when Brexton can be eligible to race in the Truck Series to where Busch would split a ride with him before he’s old enough to handle the driving duties on his own.

When that happens, Kyle will fully retire.

LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA – JULY 24: (L-R) Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 CommScope Chevrolet, Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 DeWalt Toyota, Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&Ms Toyota, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, talk backstage during driver intros prior to the NASCAR Cup Series M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway on July 24, 2022 in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

“A lot of sleepless nights,” he said of this process. “I feel like the market is different than what it was years ago and willing to raise for under my market value. So whenever that comes to be it’s obviously a negotiation and then figuring out where I go and what the long term play is what the short term play is, and, you know, hopefully not being able to go through this again.”

Busch decided to take less for a longer future deal. He let JGR know that. However, JGR was still needing that large sponsor and were struggling to find it.

“I’ve already admitted that I’m willing to take concessions,” Busch said of his contract negotiations. “But that unicorn hasn’t fallen out of the sky or 20 million bucks or whatever it is, and I don’t think it needs to be that number,” he says. “Because obviously there’s a there’s a number in that that then pays a driver and I’ve already said that I’m willing to take concessions and race for under my market value and go forward and being able to stay in the seat that I’ve made home for the last 15 years.”

When nothing still came about, he had to look outside of JGR and Toyota from that point forward.

“I mean, anything’s on the table,” he says.

Busch says this sport has evolved to where you need to have sponsors to continue on.

“It’s not it’s it’s not as simple as being a basketball player and being a Michael Jordan or LeBron James or something like that,” he says. “And being a really good player and the team losing a sponsor and then saying, Okay, Michael, LeBron, you guys, we got to let you go. We can’t afford you know what I mean? So again, you have to have some sponsorship on the car and unfortunately, right now, there’s just not, there’s not that unicorn, there’s not that big $20 million number out there. So we’re, I’d like to be able to piece it together but haven’t heard much on that yet.

“Yeah, I mean, I hate to make comparisons but somebody told me this a week or so ago. It’d be like Dale Earnhardt in 1998, three or four years after winning his last championship being on the free market agency and not having a ride. You know what I mean? Like that just sounds crazy. So I don’t know what to do.”

RCR became a top target.

Childress felt spurned by Tyler Reddick when his younger driver elected to move on from RCR for 2024. Austin Dillon came to his grandfather and said, “what about Kyle Busch?” Childress said that was a great idea. He asked Austin to set up a meeting.

Austin got it coordinated. Childress and Busch sat down. In the meantime, Busch said he was seeking someone to give him “x and y” but if someone threw in “z” then “lets go.”

Childress had enough to offer and a deal got done.

“RCR has an impressive history in NASCAR and I’m honored that Richard is putting his trust in me to come in and continue to build on that legacy,” said Busch. “Growing up in a family of passionate racers myself, I feel like the culture that the Childress family has built within their organization will be an ideal fit for me. As I begin the next chapter of my career, I’m looking forward to driving for RCR and working with everyone there to add more wins and championships to both of our resumes.”

See, Childress has seen more drivers leave him than come. Kevin Harvick left for SHR. Reddick leaves for 23XI Racing. Childress had to go the route of hire pay drivers or his grandson. To land someone like Busch is a massive win.

Busch expects to race for at least another decade and while Reddick is much younger and has a longer road ahead, this feels like a big splash for RCR as they’re entering an upward trend again.

2022 is the most wins in a single season for RCR since Harvick won 4 times for them in 2013. It’s a long way from being winless in 2021 and having 1 win in 2020. In fact, from 2014 through 2021, they were winless in 6 of those 8 seasons. They had 1 win in the other 2 years each. This time, they have 3 trips to victory lane and 2 of the 3 are at iconic tracks in Indianapolis and Daytona.

While all 3 wins are also on “wild card” type tracks with a pair of road course wins and a superspeedway, it still is signaling that RCR is trending up.

So what about RCR attracts Busch to them when Reddick wanted to leave for a brighter future?

“RCR has an impressive history in NASCAR and I’m honored that Richard is putting his trust in me to come in and continue to build on that legacy,” said Busch. “Growing up in a family of passionate racers myself, I feel like the culture that the Childress family has built within their organization will be an ideal fit for me. As I begin the next chapter of my career, I’m looking forward to driving for RCR and working with everyone there to add more wins and championships to both of our resumes.”

This is a return to Chevrolet for which Busch won 4 times with them. 56 of his 60 wins came with Toyota.

“Toyota and TRD are privileged to have raced with Kyle Busch, one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR history,” a statement from David Wilson, President of Toyota Racing Development read. “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 has 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.  But more than that, Kyle has been a friend, part of our family and has played a key role in the development of many of our drivers through his ownership of Kyle Busch Motorsports. We wish nothing but the best for Kyle and his entire family as he moves into the next chapter of his Hall of Fame career. We’re thankful to have been along for the ride.”

Joe Gibbs Racing also put out a statement themselves reading, “Kyle has been a major part of our history and success here at Joe Gibbs Racing. We are thankful for all his contributions to our organization over the years. When you look at all that he has accomplished already, it is truly remarkable, and we know someday we will be celebrating his Hall of Fame induction. We also know he still has many more achievements in our sport ahead of him including competing for the championship this season. We wish Kyle, Samantha, Brexton, and Lennix the very best.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – SEPTEMBER 24: Chandler Smith, driver of the #18 Safelite AutoGlass Toyota, drives during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 presented by Westgate Resorts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 24, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

What To Do About The Truck Series Team?

Nothing is announced yet but Busch says that they’ll become a Chevy team now. So what does this do to Chandler Smith, John Hunter Nemechek and Corey Heim?

Busch doesn’t know yet on the model because with Toyota power, the organization and JGR fielded sponsors and placed them there. They didn’t need pay drivers.

Does he need to take that on now or does Chevrolet help?

ELKHART LAKE, WISCONSIN – JULY 03: Tyler Reddick, driver of the #8 3CHI Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Kwik Trip 250 at Road America on July 03, 2022 in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

What Happens With Reddick

He gets moved to a 3rd team that will be chartered. Remember, RCR used to have 3 charters and Childress confirmed that they’ll get one back. How? He’s not ready to say but he did say it’s firm that they’ll have a 3rd car with a 3rd charter and Reddick will drive it for one year.

The thing is, Reddick will kind of be tossed aside because Busch will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet and keep Reddick’s team basically. Even his crew chief.

As far as why separate a good thing that seems to be clicking?

Childress notes that he’s thinking long term and Reddick is here just 1 more season. Busch is here further down the road.

Did Childress Do To Reddick What Reddick Did To Him?

Childress wasn’t mad that Reddick was leaving him, it was how he handled it. Reddick didn’t let Childress know until the morning of. On Tuesday, Childress said that he didn’t let Reddick now the plans for him in 2023 until…the morning of.

Childress said he spoke to Tyler this morning and told him their plan and that he would be driving a 3rd car in 2023 from a charter that they’ll get for it. Key to me there is, he told him this morning.

“It was okay, he understood our contract and what’s in it,” Childress said. “I just told him that we have a contract to race him next year, and I talked to him later about keeping him posted on how it’s going and what we’re going to be doing, how we’re going to put it together.”

Busch and Childress have spoken obviously prior to Tuesday morning and had to have come to an agreement before as well. So to shut Reddick out of those discussions and to not tell him until today speaks volumes to me.

“I’m not looking for a one-year deal,” Childress said on why he pushed Reddick to the site per say. “I’m looking to build a strong team for the future.“ Putting (Reddick) in another car because his contract is just for one more year, and having Kyle for a long-term contract that’s the perfect answer, I think. It was a no-brainer.”

Joe Gibbs and Kyle Busch chat on pit road

Did JGR Do Enough?

That’s a question that’s being brought up relentlessly. They’ve known for months that Mars wasn’t coming back. Some are questioning on if they did enough to sell Busch and his seat. Did they fail him and themselves in the end?

Childress clearly made it work, so how did JGR not?

Did Busch’s Past Put Him Here?

It’s fair to ask if Busch’s past had a hand in this. When corporate America wants a PC driver, did Busch’s past antics force a lot of “nos” when asking for money?

Busch says NASCAR urged him to keep being him for all those years because they needed a villain. It worked. But that may have worked short term focused with this hurting him now on the long run in a sense that how many companies said no to sponsoring Busch because of his past?

Where Does JGR Go From Here?

With losing Kyle Busch and potentially Martin Truex Jr. after next season too, where does JGR go from here? With Busch leaving, that likely means the departure of KBM too. That’s been a place that Toyota has groomed drivers and JGR has been a direct beneficiary of that. From Christopher Bell to Erik Jones to others, KBM has been a place to star the process of bringing talented Toyota drivers up through the ranks and into a JGR ride.

Now, what does JGR do?

Denny Hamlin isn’t getting any younger. While he wants to finish out his driving career with JGR, he’s also 41 years old too. How many more years does he want to do this before focusing his full time efforts on 23XI Racing?

The future now is down to Bell who’ll be 28 in December and Ty Gibbs. Where do they go for the 11 and 19 seats now?

Chandler Smith, Sammy Smith, John Hunter Nemechek and Corey Heim are good enough to groom for those 2 seats but where do you house them until they’re ready?

Do you utilize your Xfinity Series program? You can put 1 in the 18 and another in the 54 while bringing back Brandon Jones to the 19. You can place the other with Sam Hunt Racing and work more aligned with them.

But what about the next crop behind them? You don’t have the Truck Series to utilize anymore.

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