Indianapolis — During his ongoing free agency saga that has morphed into possibly the biggest story of the NASCAR season, Kyle Busch has confirmed talks with other teams, without specifying which.
Some candidates are plainly obvious: Stewart-Haas Racing and its No. 10 vacancy. Richard Childress Racing and its lame-duck number 8. Others are a little less clear.
Will Trackhouse Racing slide him into a third car with another charter? Can Kaulig Racing keep him at No. 16 in their full-time (but with a rotating lineup)? Does Petty do power plays to team up with GMS Eric Jones (whom Bush discovered in the snowball derby nearly a decade ago)?
However, they are all Cup Series teams.
If Busch is serious about exploring all his options after 15 seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing, his weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway should include a trip past the Gasoline Alley and a trip to the NTT IndyCar Series paddock.
Chip Ganassi tried to hire Bush to drive a cup car 15 years earlier (and was the runner-up of an intense bidding war that resulted in Bush leaving Hendrick Motorsports for Gibbs). Michael Andretti fields a car for Kyle’s older brother, Kurt (who finished sixth as rookie of the year) at the 2014 Indy 500.
Zack Brown is determined to bring every driver in the world into the McLaren racing fold.
IndyCar’s silly season is in full swing, and Busch should have no trouble commanding an audience of interested in his talent, whether for a one-time Indy 500 entry or a multiple race schedule.
The idea of Busch racing beyond NASCAR once seemed unfathomable.
But as the 2022 Cup season unfolds without a multi-year, big-pay contract for Bush, it should emerge as more likely than ever — which the two-time Series champion first signed on Saturday morning at the Indianapolis Motor Company. Accepted at Speedway.
“Someone said, ‘Maybe you should go and do the (Kyle) Larson tour,'” Bush said in response to a question from NBC Sports about whether his uncertain future could be out of NASCAR. “Go Late Models, Dirt Cars, IMSA, Drive Indy. And it’s like, ‘Oh my god.’ It seems like there’s a new element added to everything.
“And it’s probably the furthest on my list that I’ll entertain but definitely not leave it.”
Though understandable why he has trouble wrapping his head around it, Bush must do more than just entertain the concept.
Leaving NASCAR should be the primary option for a number of reasons.
Apart from winning the Daytona 500, the 37-year-old Bush doesn’t have much left to gain in the Cup. His first Ballot Hall of Fame election is already secure. His versatility – 200 wins in the top three national series – is legendary.
Since the current knockout playoff format was introduced in 2014, winning a title has in some ways become more arbitrary than ever (witness the final pit stop that was Kyle Larson’s third or fourth fastest car in the Phoenix title). Regardless determines last year’s champion) race).
Busch is all about chasing records, but he never reaches seven championships and once you’ve got more than one champion, what’s the difference between actually having two, four or six? He will always be less than the holy trinity of Earnhardt, Petty and Johnson, and his five championship round performances will be remembered for its elite consistency.
Consider the options if Busch elected to remain in NASCAR (and likely drive millions less, at least in the short term).
He may give Gibbs a home-team leeway (perhaps for a longer extension in a one-year “bridge”), but there are some aspects of his relationship with the team that seem to be lasting through a process of several months. has been changed from. to resign.
Ty Gibbs has emerged as a definite future star, and his inevitable promotion for the Cup will continue in the background, even as Bush remains on (particularly on a one-year deal), and Joe Gibbs’ grandson is another in Xfinity. spends the year. Parlor games about Martin Truex Jr. and Bush’s futures will begin next January and slot Ty Gibbs in one of their cars for 2024.
The teenager’s emergence has been in the midst of a confluence of extenuating circumstances, which has apparently agitated Bush at times during contract negotiations that have dragged on for months longer than anyone would have wished.
It’s certainly not Bush’s fault (and not Gibbs’, to some extent, that potential sponsors have collapsed amid recent economic turmoil and the ongoing reset of superstar driver salaries in NASCAR. Was also informed about the departure. Long before the 2022 season and still unable to do anything.
The most attractive option for Kyle Busch is Stewart-Haas Racing. Welcome comments from Kevin Harvick on Saturday indicated it could be a good fit, and that even Gene Haas’ deep pocket could solve Bush’s perceived below-market price problem. But given SHR’s performance since last season (and the Ford Mustangs’ current position in the Cup), this would not be a lateral move.
As Harvick indicated, Bush is a franchise driver who can single-handedly elevate the team’s game, but it may take at least a year to get used to, and Bush is behind the prime of his career.
The same problem is true for a host of other midlevel teams that would love to bring on Busch as a superstar to attract talented engineers and team members from NASCAR’s powerhouses.
Bush may have the knowledge and talent to lead a reconstruction project, but does the self-proclaimed “KFB” have the grit or flair, especially in his late 30s? (Ask Brad Kiselowski how Year 1 is going with RFK Racing as a driver-owner.)
“Rowdy” is all about showing your ability to leave an impression anywhere, anytime and always.
To do so has never been a better time than now for Bush, who has openly talked about running the Indy 500 (a deal was rejected by Gibbs in 2017) and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The overall prototype has raced to victory.
The world of racing may suddenly be his oyster, and if he takes the bold step of exploring it seriously, Bush could find even more limitless opportunities in interest from the series (no matter just the teams).
IndyCar has scored a number of runs on a crossover for him, and Roger Penske (who has hinted at a future Indy 500 for Kyle Larsson) will certainly want Bush racing the brickyard in May. It’s easy to imagine a dirt chain like World of Outlaws leaning back to help arrange your route to prestigious events like the Knoxville Nationals.
The ship has sailed on Formula One, but Bush has long been talking about having the makeup to race globally in international circles. With next year’s synergy of the IMSA and the World Endurance Championship amid a huge influx of manufacturer cash into sports cars, unexpected doors could open ahead of the Rolex 24 and Le Mans.
It could be the supercharged version of the Kyle Larsson Tour that captivated the racing world in 2020.
There can be one big hang-up: money.
He has spoken frequently about the 50 families at Kyle Busch Motorsports, based on his Truck Series team, to put food on the table, and Bush himself has also been known to live a bit older. Maintenance of the 30,000-square-foot Lake Norman mansion is pretty easy with a cup salary, and it would be difficult to piece together less than a chain to make up the difference.
But he’s already set to take less in his next Gibbs deal. This indicates that money can be less of a problem in any scenario, and also creative new revenue streams outside NASCAR for the biggest lightning rod in the Cup Series (lest we forget, Larson). easily made seven figures selling dirt merch).
Busch is NASCAR’s most outstanding driver—which is why it makes even more sense to look beyond stock cars for your next move.
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