News & Media

JGR may regret giving green light to KBM for Nationwide

February 16, 2012, Joe Menzer,

Joe Gibbs said he's still wondering how it ended up that his Joe Gibbs Racing cars will be forced to race against driver Kyle Busch in the Nationwide Series this year.

And he was only half-joking.

"I am not going to enjoy racing against him, I can tell you that. I probably would have voted no on that one."


"They get something out of this, too. I brought them an associate [Cup] sponsor along with it. So they can't complain too much."


After driving exclusively for JGR in the series the past three seasons -- a time span during which Busch won a remarkable 30 of 84 Nationwide starts plus the 2009 championship -- Busch will run a part-time Nationwide schedule this season for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports operation, splitting seat time with older brother Kurt Busch. The plan for now is to have Kyle run about 15 races and Kurt to run the rest of the 33-race schedule.

Gibbs joked recently that he wasn't in on the final decision made between his own son, JGR president J.D. Gibbs, and Kyle Busch regarding the plans to let Busch drive for his own Nationwide team in 2012.

"I probably would have argued against that," the elder Gibbs said. "But he and J.D. got together -- and the next thing I knew, I was like, 'What?' "

According to the rest of the parties involved, it didn't go down quite like that. But regardless of how it eventually was decided, it's clear that Joe Gibbs harbors some reservations about now having to go against the man who has put JGR cars in Victory Lane so consistently in the Nationwide Series during the past several years.

Gibbs did quickly add that he's glad the move will enable Busch to move several KBM employees who may otherwise have been out of jobs because he's scaling down his Camping World Truck Series operation to the new Nationwide entry.

"Listen, once all that was decided, I was all for it. I hope he can keep all his people. That was one of the concerns," Gibbs said. "He's got a number of people over there and he didn't want to see them in trouble. And I think he wants to build that program. Obviously he and J.D. got together and decided, hey, this is something that they could do.

"I am not going to enjoy racing against him, I can tell you that. I probably would have voted no on that one. I probably would have been overruled, but I probably would have voted no."

J.D. Gibbs admitted cutting Busch's Nationwide ride loose with JGR's blessing was done with some trepidation. But he said JGR has some underlying reasons for being supportive of the move. Busch's departure has opened up opportunities for other drivers and team members to gain Nationwide experience. JGR plans to have driver Brian Scott run a full schedule in the No. 11 Toyota, as well as field other drivers, such as Michael McDowell, in a limited number of races in a second car.

"Hey, listen, they're going to be good," J.D. Gibbs said of the Busch duo. "But we do this because it's a place not just to train drivers and get them experience -- but also it's the engineers, it's the crew chief, it's the guy who comes up through the ranks in all kinds of roles. So there are a whole bunch of different reasons why we do Nationwide, as well."

There was another ulterior motive, according to Joe Gibbs. He admitted the main point of all offseason conversations between JGR and Busch was to get Kyle to cut back on his rigorous schedule -- so he can focus more completely on his Sprint Cup efforts in JGR's No. 18 Toyota.

"He's his own man and makes his own decisions," Gibbs said. "But what we tried to do was sit with him and work out a plan for him this year. Obviously part of that is reducing his schedule a little bit so he can focus more on certain things. ... He'll be racing less -- and I think that'll allow him to focus more on Cup. If you're racing Truck and a full Nationwide schedule, and trying to take care of all that, that's really a lot of time to be involved with crew chiefs and everything else. So I think where we're at right now is really good. It's going to be a year where we can really get focused and go after it."

Busch chuckled when he was asked if JGR instructed him outright to cut back on his Nationwide and Truck series schedules.

"With the Nationwide Series, they said, 'Go do your deal. It's obviously something that's really important to you.' I've collaborated with them about this deal the whole time through, so it wasn't a surprise to them at all," Busch said. "And hey, they get something out of this, too. I brought them an associate [Cup] sponsor along with it. So they can't complain too much.

"The Truck stuff? They said, 'We'd rather you not run Truck races.' So it wasn't necessarily an outright 'no.' But it was a highly recommended, 'Let's leave the Trucks alone.' "

Meanwhile, there are bound to be many interesting Busch-owned car vs. JGR-owned car moments in the Nationwide Series this season. Going back to Gibbs' contention that he lacked a vote in the final decision on the matter, it left J.D. Gibbs to admit that his father sometimes has to remind him who's really in charge -- at least in theory -- at JGR these days.

"He'll still take me outside once in a while and say, 'Whose name is on that sign? What does it say?' And I'll have to say, 'Joe Gibbs Racing,' " J.D. said. "And he'll be like, 'Just checking.' "