CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There are many chapters one could write for the enigmatic career of Kyle Busch.
Tuesday morning began the closing of one and the beginning of another when Busch announced, “I’ll be taking my talents to Welcome, North Carolina,” inside the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
With those words, years of unsettled differences were officially put aside and relief appeared to overcome the 37-year-old driver as the future of Busch’s racing career was settled after months of uncertainty.
A big revelation from Tuesday’s press conference was that Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, was the one to initiate the conversations to bring Busch to RCR. The talks between Dillon and Busch allowed them to quash any tension that could’ve remained from Busch and Childress, or Busch and Chevrolet, to open the door for Busch to join the team.
“I was kinda surprised honestly,” Busch said. “When Austin reached out, I was like ‘OK. Well, we probably need to sit down and discuss something first,’ and it was fine. It was easy. Just to feel wanted and feel that they know who I am, what I am. I mean the accolades speak for themselves in that I can go over there and continue that build to the top. I feel like they are on a good path.”
Over the years, the thought of Busch ever driving for RCR would’ve seemed improbable as Busch and RCR chairman and CEO Richard Childress were involved in a scuffle following a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in 2011 at Kansas Speedway due to rising tensions after on-track incidents with then-RCR drivers Kevin Harvick and Joey Coulter.
In their recent meetings, Childress said they were able to put their differences behind them and work on bringing Busch to the team.
Going through negotiations, Childress drew a comparison between Busch and a Hall of Famer.
“When we talked about winning races and winning championships, I looked in his eye and I’d seen that look in Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s eye, that he’s [Busch] hungry. We’re gonna win,” Childress emphasized.
But Busch’s move means more to him than just the prospects of winning for a historic franchise. The 37-year-old has been open about his family this season and about the hurdles and struggles of having an unknown future. When negotiating with teams, Busch said he wanted to be between “X” and “Y”, and if “Z” was on the table, then Busch said he was ready to go. The “Z” could’ve come in the form of Childress announcing a “future contract option” for Brexton Busch, the 7-year-old son of Kyle and his wife Samantha.
While Busch didn’t speak much on his son’s racing future, he said he knew the move could mean a stable future for his Truck Series team – and he’s previously said he hopes to race in the Truck Series with Brexton someday.
“I think that’s more-so a morph decision for (Kyle Busch Motorsports) right?” Busch said. “And to make sure we can keep KBM going as best as we can into the future. The family decision of all of that was just the way we get along with Austin and his wife, where Samantha and I feel welcomed and relatable.”
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That welcomed feeling from RCR was observed well before Busch put ink to paper.
“When all the rumors started and you’d walk through the race shop,” Childress said, “the excitement in people’s voices when they’d ask ‘Is Kyle Busch really coming here to drive for us?’ Today, it’s official and for that group at RCR, I hope they’re up there watching this and I bet they are excited to know that you [Busch] will be the driver of the No. 8 car.”
Despite two championships with Joe Gibbs Racing, there have been struggles with Busch and the team over the last few years. The No. 18 Toyota team has only collected one win this season and the team is on pace for its worst average finish (currently 16.5) since the 2014 season (17.6). Whether it be the sponsorship unknowns or inconsistent performances, there have been “aggravations of mistakes” that Busch admitted to.
“Trust me, I had the most fun of my life in 2015, ’16, ’17, ’18 over at Joe Gibbs Racing, but ’19 on has been a struggle for whatever reason,” Busch said. “Just trying to put all that together over there and not really see the reap of benefits for all the hard work and everything going into it has been very frustrating. It’s not the reason why I’m out or why I’m leaving. It’s just a matter of business.
“I’m hopeful that a fresh start can kinda clean up what’s happened over the last couple of years on my end of things. To think that you are wanted somewhere and you have people that are excited about having you … as Richard mentioned that everyone on the shop floor is all asking questions.”
Eight weeks still remain in the 2022 Cup season, but regardless of how results turn out in the postseason for Busch and Childress’ Nos. 3 and 8 teams, Busch knows he has a home for years to come. And Childress knows he has his guy.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we will make a great team together for the long haul,” Childress said.