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May 18, 2022

Toyota’s David Wilson on keeping Kyle Busch: ‘Any other scenario is just unacceptable’

Sean Gardner | Getty Images
Sean Gardner
Getty Images

Toyota Racing Development (TRD) President David Wilson expressed his strong support Tuesday for keeping Kyle Busch on the automaker’s driver roster with Joe Gibbs Racing until his retirement, hinting that maintaining that partnership would pave the way for the next generation of Buschs to continue that legacy.

Busch has driven the No. 18 Toyota for Coach Joe Gibbs’ team since the 2008 season. In that time, he’s amassed 56 of his 60 NASCAR Cup Series victories. His agreement with JGR runs through the end of this season, and Busch periodically has spoken candidly, sometimes in blunt terms, about his contract status in recent weeks.

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Tuesday, Wilson reaffirmed his commitment to Busch in a roundtable with reporters, making reference to Busch’s ebbs and flows with the manufacturer but also his 203 NASCAR national series wins in Toyota equipment.

“We’ve been very close to Kyle for years and years and years, and some of that relationship, to be candid, has been born through trials that we’ve gone through together and through controversy that we’ve gone through together,” Wilson said. “We’ve had some really tough times with Kyle Busch but we also are sitting on two championships and in celebrating recently our 1,500 starts across the three national series.

“I’ll pull this up, because I keep the stat handy all the time: One driver has accounted for 36% of our total wins across all three series, and you know who that driver is. It’s just amazing. So any scenario that doesn’t have Kyle Busch retiring from Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota would be a monstrous disappointment — for us and for Coach Gibbs and the family.”

Wilson admitted that the offseason decision of primary sponsor Mars, through its M&M’s brand, to leave the No. 18 team at year’s end had added a surprise wrinkle to the negotiations. But the TRD executive said he understood and was “somewhat empathetic” to Busch’s stance on the delays, which he has aired out in media interviews at recent races.

Wilson said he hoped to keep Busch as part of the Toyota family, making overtures that his son — Brexton, who turns 7 years old Wednesday — could keep the family connection going one day, starting with the Camping World Truck Series team that his father owns.

“Put yourself in his shoes. He’s on an out year of his contract. This is so rare, because, of course, what the team, what we try and do is get well ahead of this, particularly with a tier-one driver like Kyle Busch,” Wilson said. “The circumstances, unfortunately, have made that challenging. So you know, we’re working on it. This is a conversation I have with Joe every week, and I’m optimistic.

“I know, and Kyle wants … you know, he doesn’t want to go anywhere else. He has been very candid. You know, he can’t wait for the day that his little boy, Brexton, races a Toyota Tundra out of the Kyle Busch Motorsports stable. He has that in his sights. And that’s not going to be for another 10-plus years, which means that we’ve got to make sure that we’re still together long after Kyle’s out of the driver’s seat full time.”

Busch, 37, competed in his first three seasons for Hendrick Motorsports, collecting four Cup Series wins in that span. His first season with JGR coincided with the organization’s first year under the Toyota banner.

That driver-owner-carmaker relationship now stands at nearly a decade and a half, a grouping that Wilson intends to keep going.

“If nothing else, I can’t envision any other scenario. Any other scenario is just unacceptable,” Wilson said. “The last I’ll add is just the point of obvious — it takes both of us to get there, right? It takes Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch to get there. So we can’t control everything, and I’ll leave it at that.”