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Girding itself for disappointment, the racing world’s on fire following the uncertainty surrounding two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch's future with his team, Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch who ranks ninth on the all-time wins list is in the final year of his contract with his Charlotte-based team. Despite JGR president Dave Alpern’s praise of Busch, he admits to NBC Sports that it’s been rough finding a new sponsorship after JGR’s current deal with Mars expires this year.
“As much interest as there is in our sport, these take a long time. Admittedly, this one’s taken a little longer than we thought,” Alpern said in July, according to NBC Sports. “It’s just trying to get everything put together.”
For No.18, the idea that JGR is unable to connect a sponsor with its most successful driver, with 60 career wins, has clearly taken a toll. During a presser Saturday at Watkins Glen International, in his reply to Dustin Long, Busch expanded on the physical and mental anguish he’s been going through due to the overwhelming uncertainty suffocating his career.
“It’s been hard as hell,” Busch admitted. “It’s been a lot of sleepless nights figuring out what your future is and all that sort of stuff.”
Busch, one of the NASCAR drivers who will be featured on USA Network's upcoming docuseries "Race for the Championship," continued his therapeutic reflection for nearly two minutes, explaining that there’s now much more added stress involved as he also must consider how this impacts his ability to lead successful, entrepreneurial projects and what a change of this magnitude would mean for his family.
“The last time I went through this (changing rides) was 15 years ago, and it was a learning experience,” Busch noted. “It was hard then, too, but it was nothing like now. Then it was just me, myself and I. I didn’t have Samantha (his wife). I didn’t have a son. I didn’t have a daughter.”
“It’s way, way harder because now you have Kyle Busch Motorsports (a Camping World Truck Series team) that you’ve got to think about,” Busch explained. “You’ve got a building that you’ve got to pay on. You’ve got a building note and all that sort of stuff. So there’s a lot, a lot, a lot of pieces and that’s why it’s not so simple.”
On his podcast Stacking Pennies, driver Corey LaJoie examined the uncertainty around Busch’s future, specifically how it’s bleeding into his actions behind the wheel. LaJoie and his cohorts referenced the recent race at Richmond where Busch made a rare driver error early on that sent him into the wall.
“Kyle Busch isn’t driving the 18 car next year,” LaJoie declared. “It’s not happening. I hate it for the Kyle Busch fans. … I think we’re going to see our little buddy in the 18, guys. That’s just what it is.”
That "little buddy" LaJoie alluded to is none other than Joe Gibbs’ 19-year-old grandson Ty Gibbs. The youngster has been filling in Kurt Busch who is still recovering from a concussion he sustained last month at Pocono.
Though he clearly has a lot on his plate right now as he weighs his future, the veteran speedster with 224 victories across three NASCAR national series is focused on racing for now.
“I’m a racer. I’ve only ever known how to race. … Trying to take care of all those pieces and make sure everything goes as it was or as it has been the last few years would certainly be nice,” Busch said.
Can't get enough NASCAR action? Tune into "Race for the Championship," which tracks the lives of the sports' most compelling stars on and off the track, premiering on USA Network Thursday, Sept. 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. And you can catch up on all things NASCAR on Peacock.
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