News & Media


Nationwide expansion takes KBM to 'next level'

October 21, 2011, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Earlier this season, Kyle Busch Motorsports built a car that former Formula One champion Kimi Raikkonen used to make his debut in NASCAR's Nationwide Series. That one-time entry proved to be a springboard toward a full-time effort on the circuit that Busch's organization will undertake next year.

Busch announced Friday at Talladega Superspeedway that KBM will expand into the Nationwide Series in 2012, with a fully sponsored entry that will run for the championship. That effort will be in addition to the Camping World Truck Series team currently operated by KBM. Although sponsor and driver have yet to be unveiled, Busch said he will pilot the vehicle in some events next season, in addition to those he's slated to run for Joe Gibbs Racing.

"We've been going through this process now for about four months. We're ready and excited that the opportunity has finally come that we can move up to the Nationwide Series."

--KYLE BUSCH

"We've been going through this process now for about four months. We're ready and excited that the opportunity has finally come that we can move up to the Nationwide Series," Busch said. "We've wanted to do that at Kyle Busch Motorsports now for a couple of years. We actually wanted to have two Truck teams out of there this year, and we've kind of done that. We've run part-time with a second team. So it's been good. But this just takes us to that next level. We'd like to make it a long-term partnership that helps out over time with NASCAR, with the series, and making sure that Kyle Busch Motorsports can stay going."

Busch has long been a beast in the Nationwide Series, winning a record 51 events on that circuit, including the drivers' championship in 2009. In 20 starts so far this season, he's won eight times. That touch extended into the Truck Series with KBM, where despite some initial sponsorship struggles -- Busch lost what was supposed to be his primary sponsor before his debut campaign of 2010 even started -- the No. 18 truck has enjoyed tremendous success on the race track, winning 14 times in the past two seasons and claiming the owners' championship last year.

Because KBM also builds Nationwide chassis for other teams -- such as the NEMCO Motorsports entry that Raikkonen piloted at Charlotte in May -- much of the groundwork for Nationwide expansion is already in place. Busch said the team will field a Toyota, and a sponsor will be announced at a later date. "It's all pretty much done," he said. And given Busch's presence behind the wheel is often key to his team attracting sponsorship, it's natural to assume that the Sprint Cup star will drive the yet-to-be-numbered entry for an undetermined number of events.

"It's safe to assume that I'll be running in some Nationwide races at Kyle Busch Motorsports," he said. "I will also still commit to my parent obligations I have at JGR and run over there, too. So I'll be split between two Nationwide teams, essentially, driving some races. What number that's going to be yet, that's to be decided. We've gone over it with JGR and everything, and certainly that's definitely nothing new to those guys."

Given that Busch will drive some races, it appears the vehicle will pursue the Nationwide Series owners' championship, since running for the drivers' title would require the same person in the seat for the whole season. Busch's expansion comes as some teams in NASCAR's national divisions -- such as Germain Racing, Turner Motorsports, and Red Bull -- are contracting and facing potential layoffs, and as other Sprint Cup title contenders like Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards are scaling back their extracurricular activities to place more focus on trying to win titles in NASCAR's premier division.

But Busch has never been big on the theory that he's distracted by his interests in other series, pointing out that he ran second in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup events at Charlotte last weekend. He believes the new Nationwide effort will help him at places like Indianapolis, where he's never won and the Nationwide cars will debut in 2012. "I'd like to get in a Nationwide car there and work around some different points of interest, if you will, that might help me with my Cup car -- where to lift, where to pick up the throttle, those kinds of things," Busch said.

Expansion into the Nationwide Series is also a step toward Busch's ultimate goal of having KBM operate without him having to oversee it day-to-day.

"Going forward into the ownership role, my idea is to have a foundation of a company that will run off itself," he said. "Rick Hendrick isn't there every single day making sure the inner workings of Hendrick Motorsports are working correctly. He's got the people in the right places that do that for him -- [team president] Marshall Carlson, etc. Joe [Gibbs], when he went off to football, we had ... all those guys who helped run the company. That's my idea with KBM, just as well. To have [general manager] Rick Ren, to have our P.R. department, to have our marketing department, to have that stuff just doing its own deal so it can survive without me there on a daily basis."