Editor’s note: This continues the series of season reviews for select 2022 NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
Driver: Kyle Busch
Car: No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry TRD
Crew chief: Ben Beshore
Final 2022 ranking: 13th
Key stats: 1 win, 8 top fives, 17 top 10s, 627 laps led
How 2022 ended: Kyle Busch’s season may be best remembered for its off-track twists and uncertainty, which ultimately found resolution with a change in teams — from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing — heading into 2023. As for the on-track portion of Rowdy’s final JGR campaign, a surprising last-lap victory in Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt-track race sealed his berth among the 16 postseason-eligible drivers. Busch’s appearance in the playoff field, however, was short-lived. Engine failure while leading ended his day at Darlington Raceway, a spin at Kansas Speedway added to his deficit and another expired engine in his return to Bristol Motor Speedway added up to a rocky three-race stretch and an early Round of 16 exit. As for the end of his long tenure with Coach Joe Gibbs’ No. 18 team, Busch bid an emotional farewell after a seventh-place result in the Phoenix finale.
TAKE A LOOK: New merch available!
Best race: In terms of result, the automatic answer is the race that Kyle Busch won last season. Busch threaded his No. 18 Toyota past a final-lap collision between front-runners Chase Briscoe and Tyler Reddick to snag the checkered flag on Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt. He led only the final circuit that April night, achieving a milestone with career win No. 60. In terms of best race without the winning result, Busch had several strong all-around performances that went awry by the end. None were more devastating than the Cup Series Playoffs opener at Darlington, where Busch led a race-best 155 laps before his engine gave up just 23 laps from the finish.
Other season highlights: Amid some of the struggles, the No. 18 team flashed moments of resilience in the 2022 campaign. The year’s first top-five finish was emblematic of that spirit as Busch drove a reserve car — hastily prepared after a crash in practice — from last on the starting grid to a fourth-place result at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. As personal highlights go, the Busch family welcomed its second child to the world on May 10, announcing the birth of Lennix Key Busch.
Stat to know: Busch’s eight top-five finishes in 2022 marked the lowest total of any season since joining the Cup Series full-time 18 years ago. Attribute a share of that low-water mark to his seven DNFs — his highest total in that category since his rookie year in 2005 (eight).
Quotable: “It’s obviously been a challenging … not just this year but the last little while, and so it’s kind of maybe a blessing in disguise, honestly, where it might just be a time for a fresh start, time for something new and something different. So I’m kind of looking at it as the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning aspect where they left great teams, great organizations where they won championships, and they went on and were able to win championships somewhere else. So I’d like to think that I still have that opportunity to be able to do that with RCR.”
Looking ahead: A monumental change is in progress this offseason for Busch, who breaks with Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota for a future with Richard Childress Racing and Chevrolet starting in 2023. The move will take some major getting used to, not the least of which is a shift in car number from the No. 18 he’s driven for the last 15 years to the No. 8. Busch indicated during Champion’s Week in Nashville that he’s already getting comfortable in his new surroundings, and RCR teammate Austin Dillon said that Busch’s work ethic and enthusiasm have already made an impression: “He is already wearing everybody out about, ‘hey, we’ve got to be ready to go.’ ” How that translates to on-track performance in year two of the Next Gen car is still an unknown, but Busch and Childress are already firming up a new foundation.