INDIANAPOLIS — Kyle Busch kicked off his Saturday by joining past winners at the sacred Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a class photo at the Yard of Bricks.
He sat alongside Arie Luyendyk, ahead of Marcus Ericsson, Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves – a combined eight Indy 500 titles alongside NASCAR’s only active driver with multiple Cup championships.
And yet Busch still has no contract for next season. His regular sponsor will pull out of NASCAR at the end of the season, and if Joe Gibbs Racing doesn’t find a deep-pocketed replacement for M&M’s and Mars Inc., Busch will have to look elsewhere for a job.
It’s an unfathomable predicament for Busch, the 2015 and 2019 NASCAR champion and winner of 60 career Cup races, having won all but four since joining JGR in 2008. He wants to stay in the number 18 Toyota, but the clock is ticking.
“It would be like Dale Earnhardt in 1998, three or four years after winning his last championship, in the free-desk market and without a ride. That just sounds crazy,” Busch said. “I don’t know what to do, how to solve it.”
Despite his credentials, Busch knows he will have to take a pay cut. Motorsport’s business model relies on corporate financing and the market is radically different from when he signed his first deal with Gibbs in 2007 and even when he signed his last renewal in 2019.
“You talk about what you want, and I think you’re insinuating that I’m asking heaven on salary or something, and I’ve already admitted that I’m willing to make concessions,” Busch said. “I feel like the market is different than it was years ago, and I’m willing to race below my market value.
“You have to have sponsorship in this sport to move forward. It’s not as simple as being a basketball player and being Michael Jordan or LeBron James and being a really good player, and then the team loses a sponsor and then says, ‘Okay, Michael, LeBron, we have to let you go. We can’t pay you.'”
Rival driver Kevin Harvick said he would welcome Busch to Stewart-Haas Racing.
“It’s impossible that Kyle Busch doesn’t have many options,” Harvick said. “Kyle is still one of the best that has ever come through this garage. There are a lot of teams that can say they have never had a driver like this. He could literally rebuild an organization if someone took a chance that did that.” has not done.” t had one of those drivers.”
Busch acknowledged that the stress has caused “many sleepless nights” as NASCAR heads into Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. NASCAR will take the road course for the second consecutive year; Busch finished 20th last year, but won back-to-back Brickyard 400s on the oval in 2015 and 2016.
Busch has one win this season and will qualify for the playoffs. But his current organization, JGB, was shocked when Denny Hamlin and Busch lost their 1-2 finish on Sunday at Pocono Raceway because their Toyotas failed the inspection – an escalation as the series won’t tolerate crap with its new Next Gen car. .
“It’s exaggerated for what it was, but I understand the process for the car and make sure the example is there,” Busch said of the suspension.
So typically brash and brash, Busch has been more muted about that and almost all subjects because he’s clearly concerned about what’s next in his racing career.
He said he talks to teams all over the NASCAR garage and can’t even keep all the conversations straight. He knows he has the skills to give up full-time NASCAR racing and create a multi-series bucket list race schedule, but it’s probably a last resort.
Busch wants to stay with Gibbs, end of story.
“My first goal is to be with Joe Gibbs Racing and be with Toyota and not change anything,” said Busch. “If the musical chairs stop and I’m still standing, and I don’t have a chair, I’m screwed. So I have to keep talking and evaluate every place and every situation and find something.”
Indianapolis is hosting a shared event between NASCAR and IndyCar this weekend, and the speedway staff took the opportunity to gather as many live winners as possible for the group photo.
It provided a therapeutic Saturday for NASCAR star Ricky Rudd, the one-time Ironman who essentially left the sport behind when he retired at the end of the 2007 season. His appearance was the first time he had been to a track since he retired.
Rudd had been to an air show in Wisconsin with a friend when IMS president Doug Boles contacted him about the photo.
“So yesterday at 3am we moved in and here we are,” said Rudd, who mingled with his former rivals and met Mario Andretti for the first time.
Rudd won 23 races in a 33-year career and held the mark for consecutive starts at 788 before Jeff Gordon broke the record in 2015.
Erik Jones and Petty GMS announced a multi-year extension for Jones to continue driving the No. 43 Chevrolet.
Jones joined Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021 and remained in the car this season when GMS Racing and RPM merged. He has been in the top-10 seven times this season and is 18th in the standings.
“I’m really excited to have this deal done and to finally be able to talk about it,” Jones said. “Every week I feel like we are getting better and better and that we are fighting to win. If we know where I will be driving, we can really focus on building the team and improving our cars.”
ODDS AND END
Tyler Reddick took pole in Saturday’s qualifying and beat Austin Cindric by 0.252 seconds to take his second career pole. Chase Briscoe qualified third and was followed by Christopher Bell and Joey Logano. … Hamlin said he brought the Pocono trophy to IMS to give to Chase Elliott, who was deemed the winner despite finishing third. “It’s being transported to Chase. I told Chase and we had some good texts back and forth.”
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