Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing era ending on a sour note

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 25: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Interstate Batteries Toyota, enters the garage area after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Trader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on September 25, 2022 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

The end of the Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing era will not go down as a bright spot in NASCAR history. Busch is leaving JGR after a 14-year career together that included two Cup titles and like all drivers no doubt wanted to leave with a few more wins to his total of 30 with the team and perhaps a third Cup title.

It wasn’t meant to be, however.

Busch did make the 16-driver field but in the first round he lost an engine at Darlington while leading, then spun at Kansas, then lost another engine at Bristol to solidify his cut from the Round of 16.

Sunday at Texas he didn’t fair any better. On lap 49 Busch was running inside the top 10 but coming out of Turn 4 his Toyota slammed the wall. The damage was too much, and he was scored with his third DNF in the last 4 races.

“I was just getting closer to the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and I knew if I tracked him, followed him in the lower groove, I would lose ground,” Busch said. “So I went to the high groove where I was making time in the spray and the sticky stuff, but it is not so sticky apparently. I crashed.

“I’m trying to go, trying to race. Banana peels out there for me. Too many conditions that you’ve got to be around or go around or figure out or be smarter about. I guess I wasn’t very smart.”

Busch said it wasn’t about pushing too hard, but perhaps more about the traction compound the track put down in the corners in an attempt to widen the racing groove.

“I didn’t know as a race car driver you could push too hard,” Busch said. “But certainly, it was a resin issue. I guess you would think being a hundred-and-something degree track temp it would be activated and ready to go, but I tried to get in it earlier than everybody else.

“I was behind the 11 (Denny Hamlin), catching the 11. If I tracked the 11 in the lower groove, I was going to lose time to him, so I just decided to go high and try to keep time or make time on him and it just snapped. Once these cars snap, they are gone. They are not like the old one where you have a little bit of time to react and catch it, but yeah, just trying hard trying to go and conditions are not ready. Banana peels out there it seems. When that stuff is not activated, it is just ice.”

Ironically, and almost as if to add insult to injury, prior to Texas JGR swapped the pit crews of Hamlin and Busch, with Hamlin still in the Playoffs.

When asked Sunday what he thought he needed to ‘flip the script’ on his season with 6 races left, Busch had a simple answer:


Greg Engle