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October 21, 2022

‘It just flipped’: Busch details final season with Joe Gibbs Racing in ‘Race for the Championship’

Kyle Busch prepares to enter his car on pit road.
Chris Graythen
Getty Images

Editor’s note: Tune in live or set your DVRs for weekly episodes Thursday nights at 10 ET on USA Network. Previous episodes are currently available for streaming on Peacock.

Change isn’t always easy. Not even for two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch.

Even in NASCAR, a sport with such deeply rooted history and tradition, it is rare for a driver to spend 15 years with a single organization. Busch had become synonymous with the Joe Gibbs Racing brand and the bright yellow M&M’s Toyota Camry that even the most casual fans could recognize anywhere. He even secured the organization’s first title in over a decade after winning at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2015 (he also was champion in 2019) and has been a top title contender nearly every season since.

Despite all that success, according to Busch in the latest episode of USA Network’s exclusive documentary series, “Race for the Championship,” for the first time in his career, things felt different as the 2022 season stretched on.

“Something that is so disappointing to me, and so hurtful about this whole situation with JGR, is they were like family,” Busch said in the emotional Episode 8 interview. “For 15 years, Joe had my back in the stupidest of moments that Kyle Busch was. Like, he was there for me and it’s gone. It just flipped and gone and it’s like nothing I’ve ever been a part of.” (Editor’s note: If you missed Thursday’s episode, it is available for streaming on Peacock.)

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Longtime sponsor Mars announced earlier this season that it would be their last with the coveted “Candy Man,” ramping up the pressure and increasing the sleepless nights in pursuit of a new sponsor and contract extension with the team.

But with talks of an extension stalling midseason, many began to see the writing on the wall. Change was inevitable.

“What’s crazy is to be in this position in someone’s prime,” Busch said in “Race for the Championship” Episode 8. “Change is scary, right? You’ve been in a place for 14-15 years that you’ve built into winning races, winning championships. Going somewhere else is scary.”

Busch has been a key face of JGR in his decade-and-a-half with the organization, racking up 57 of his 60 career wins to add to a pair of championships. Driving the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season, he will contend against them on track for the first time since 2007.

Sean Gardner | Getty Images

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In 18 full-time seasons at the premier series level, Busch has never had a winless season and including his 2015 title run, five of the last eight seasons have resulted in four or more wins.

Many will agree that despite the many unfortunate circumstances surrounding the move, Busch is still very well in the midst of his prime. Count Dale Earnhardt Jr. among those not ready to sell stock of the 37-year-old superstar.

“If I was gambling on this, I would absolutely put all my money on the table that Kyle Busch has at least five to six more peak years,” said Earnhardt Jr. in Episode 8. “Not good, but at his top. He’s as hungry as he’s ever been, he’s got a chip on his shoulder and he’s absolutely gonna prove to the world that somebody made a mistake and he’s still got what it takes.”

With three races remaining in the Cup Series’ regular season, the sun is setting on one of the most accomplished driver-team pairings in the sport’s history — but a new chapter is being written for Busch’s career. And if one thing has been made clear, he still has a lot more left to tell.