Kyle Busch’s future may have changed now that’s he stopped listening to advice from NASCAR executives

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 01: NASCAR driver Kyle Busch speaks with the media during the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Media Day at Charlotte Convention Center on September 01, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

It’s been no secret that Kyle Busch has been working on a new contract. His struggles began earlier this season when his longtime sponsor M&Ms announced they were leaving NASCAR.

It seemed the two-time champion would have no problems finding a new sponsor and extending his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing the team he has been with since 2008.

Yet there has been.

The reasons vary from speculation that Busch is holding out for more money (he’s debunked that one), to wanting to put all the right pieces in place. Well, it seems that those pieces are almost all in place and a final announcement about his future could happened within the next week.

Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson has made no secret of the fact that they want to keep Busch in a Toyota. He said Thursday morning that a decision on Busch’s future is expected within the next seven to 10 days.

“I was hoping yesterday,” Busch said later Thursday during NASCAR’s Playoff media day. “Needs to be. Again, I’m not going to put a timeline on it, but time is ticking and there are a lot of other options and a lot of other dominoes that need to fall. Just talking amongst others, I’m the first one that needs to go.”

Busch said that returning to JGR is an option, but there are also other teams in play. He said the entire process has weighed on him.

“Trust me,” he said. “My gut doesn’t feel good and that’s not just for decisions being made, but more so decisions being weighed and perception and how you come across to all of those that you’re going to disappoint.

“There’s going to be one winner and the rest are not winners if you look at it in that regard. Good for me, but I definitely don’t want to come across as a lead-on or a liar so that’s why it’s been touch and go and trying to tread lightly.”

Busch has always been a polarizing figure on the track. A no-nonsense driver who isn’t afraid to speak his mind and come off as somewhat ruthless competitor. That has made talking to potential sponsors tough.

“You have to be on the racetrack,” he said. “But you are a human, and you are still a person when it comes down to during the week and through all of this talk. You still want to come out of it with meeting all of these people and talking to all of these people that you’re human and you have to make a decision that’s best for you and your family and what that looks like going forward.”

But Busch said he feels that being the tough guy might have impacted his ability to sell himself to a potential sponsor.

“Obviously the perception is that it’s probably tougher being who I am to sell a sponsor, but I’m going to argue that fact too,” he said. “Name me the last big five-to-10-million-dollar sponsor that’s come in our sport lately. Give me one (to media). So is that a Kyle problem or a sport problem?”

Busch feels he might have to change going forward in order to attract a new sponsor.

“I would agree with that,” he said. “I feel like having the freedom of being able to act or react to certain situations the way that I could through the support of M&M’s allowed me to be as successful as I was on Sunday, 1000 percent. So, will that have to change? Most likely. How much? 10 percent, 15 percent, I don’t know.

“Maybe it’s 18 percent that you have to change,” he added with a chuckle referencing his car number. “But I don’t know what that is or what that looks like. So obviously, that’s still to be determined.”

Busch turned serious and said that part of who he has been in the past was fueled in part by NASCAR.

“Trust me man,” he said. “I’ve heard from every NASCAR executive,’ man Kyle you are awesome, don’t change’. Right? Well now listening to that for the past 15 years, might present me job less.  So, I guess don’t listen to those offering you advice all the time is my best submission.”

In the last few weeks, the world has seen a different Kyle Busch. He’s been more open, less edgy, and seems to be smiling a bit more. Perhaps he did take his own advice and stop being the somewhat ruthless competitor that those NASCAR executives wanted him to be. And maybe that’s why David Wilson’s prediction that Busch’s future will be announced in the next seven to 10 days just might be right on the money.

Photos: NASCAR Playoff Media Day Thur. Sept. 1, 2022

Greg Engle