Tuesday morning’s news that Kyle Busch is moving from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing was undoubtedly the worst kept news in NASCAR for at least the past month. Busch leaves the JGR Toyota camp after 15 seasons and two Cup championships to pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet currently occupied by Tyler Reddick.
At first glance, it’s obvious this will be a boon for the mid-pack RCR camp. Since losing Kevin Harvick in 2013, RCR has celebrated success sparingly within the organization, with seven wins (four for Austin Dillon, one for Ryan Newman, two for Reddick) since the 2014 season. To bring in a driver like Busch could very well turn the tides for RCR and could bring in the level of success the group was used to during Harvick’s tenure with the team.
It’s all dependent, however, on how much money Chevrolet is planning on throwing in RCR’s and Busch’s direction. With the move to RCR, Busch’s Kyle Busch Motorsports Camping World Truck teams will be making the switch to Chevrolet as well. Considering that the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is heavily observed by the manufacturers, the loss of the best Toyota team is a dent in their driver pipeline. This could also bring Toyota Racing Development to pay closer attention to the drivers in their pipeline and possibly rectify the issues their clogged driver pipeline is facing (i.e., Harrison Burton, Todd Gilliland, etc.).
It’s a no-brainer that Chevrolet will be doing everything in their power to make RCR an elite team like Hendrick Motorsports. But one can’t help but wonder just what happened which led TRD and JGR to drop the ball so hard with Busch’s negotiations. Without Busch, there’s no successful Toyota Cup organization in Cup. Busch was TRD in NASCAR. He was the flagship name, he was the face of the Toyota surge in NASCAR.
For them to lose such a big name to a rival team and manufacturer couldn’t have been a deliberate matter. Busch is a generational talent; that just doesn’t happen by chance. It’s more likely by mistake or ignorance if anything. But with the loss of KBM in the trucks, that leaves Halmar-Friesen Racing and ThorSport Racing as the lone Toyota truck teams. Given the usual strength of the Toyota driver pipeline, the loss of KBM leaves their drivers with few options to go elsewhere as neither team has a high turnover rate.
The options are marginally better in the Xfinity Series aside from Joe Gibbs Racing, but it does look bleak for the time being. Undoubtedly the landscape will look different come Daytona next season, but it’s all going to be extra work scrambling to fill Busch’s shoes at JGR and Toyota.
Meanwhile, longtime manufacturer Chevrolet could be finding even more success in NASCAR with the addition of Busch and what he’ll be bringing. Another boon is more in the direction of RCR, as they’ll be bringing in a driver with a bad boy reputation the likes of which haven’t been seen since Harvick. The partnership is fitting regarding the Childress legacy, the Busch legacy, and the Chevrolet legacy. But along with that, they’ll be bringing Busch’s brand – the dark horse, the rebel, the villain.
Rowdy be thy name.