Are Kyle Busch and Richard Childress about to set the NASCAR world on fire?
If you read the tea leaves, listened closely and do some deductive reasoning, you may actually be able to convince yourself that they are.
Busch, a two-time Cup Series champion, has been in contract negotiations all summer with his current team, Joe Gibbs Racing.
We don’t know what those negotiations have entailed (well, at least you don’t … I might, but can’t tell you!). We don’t know if they’ve progressed, stalled, or if they ever really got off the ground in the first place.
All we know is that Busch still doesn’t have a ride for next season, longtime sponsor M&Ms is leaving NASCAR for good in a few months, and time is quickly running out on the 2022 season.
After this weekend’s race at Kansas, only eight weeks remain before the Nov. 6 finale at Phoenix.
So, yeah … Busch’s situation is gonna need to be resolved here pretty soon.
Richard Childress asked about Kyle Busch
So, what does any of this have to do with Childress? Well, the longtime owner was asked about Busch a few weeks ago at Daytona and he didn’t exactly shoot anything down.
“Kyle’s a great race driver,” Childress said. “He’s a great race driver. He’ll land him a good ride somewhere for sure.”
Then, of course, came the obligatory follow up question.
“Will it be at Richard Childress Racing?” someone asked.
“You said that, I didn’t,” Childress replied.
Not exactly a ‘no way, dummy.’ Not an ‘absolutely, we love Kyle!’ either.
That was two weeks ago. No movement on the contract front since, and Busch was asked about it a dozen times during last week’s playoff media day and basically gave us the old, “when I know, you’ll know” line.
23XI Racing, RCR favorites to land NASCAR champ Kyle Busch
Come on, Kyle. You should know that the Twitter sleuths would NEVER let this go, right?
Sports Business Journal’s Adam Stern restarted the rumor mill earlier this week, saying RCR was one of the favorites to land Busch … along with 23XI Racing.
— Adam Stern (@A_S12) September 6, 2022
On paper, those two teams certainly appear to be the most obvious.
RCR has two cars in the stable, but one of those seats is about to open up after next season when Tyler Reddick leaves the No. 8 to join 23XI Racing.
It’s been well documented that Childress wasn’t thrilled with the way that situation was handled earlier this summer, so it stands to reason that he would love to move Reddick before next season.
— RCR (@RCRracing) July 12, 2022
Those things, however, are a lot easier said than done – especially with those pesky contracts involved.
Perhaps Childress tries to buyout Reddick? Maybe he adds a third car to the team? Maybe he tries to sign Busch for 2024 and leave it up to him to find a ride for next season?
Speaking of …
Could Kurt Busch’s seat at 23XI Racing open up?
23XI Racing, the team owned by Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin, could possibly have a seat open for next season, too.
And it just happens to be currently occupied by Kyle’s brother.
Kurt Busch hasn’t raced since July as he continues to recover from a concussion suffered at Pocono, and it appears he’s going to miss the rest of the season. He’s reportedly already signed through next season, but that’s no longer the guarantee it was two months ago.
What if Kurt doesn’t return next season? That leaves the No. 45 Toyota open for either A) Reddick to jump in a year earlier than planned, or B) Busch to drive for one season before possibly swapping seats with Reddick in 2024.
It’s all speculation right now, although Childress’ comments at Daytona, coupled with the above news, seems to narrow the possibilities just a touch.
Who knows? Maybe another mystery team swoops in at the 11th hour? Kaulig Racing and Stewart-Haas come to mind, although Aric Almirola’s 180 on retirement may put that to bed.
Maybe Busch and Gibbs patch things up, bandage the wounds and come to an agreement for next season and beyond? Seems unlikely at this point – especially with Gibbs’ grandson, Ty Gibbs, waiting in the wings – but never say never.
Maybe Busch shocks us all, wins a championship this season and decides to retire? Talk about a bombshell.
Everything appears to be on the table right now, and the clock is ticking.
If you read between the lines, though, the RCR-23XI Racing rumor certainly seems to have some legs.