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Kyle Busch is still without a contract for 2023. (HHP photo)

Kyle Busch Is Waiting For The Dominoes To Fall

All Kyle Busch could ask for is a car to go race on Sundays. Well, that and a contract to do it.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is entering the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs as the 11th seed — a spot where plenty of drivers who didn’t make the cut would love to be — but he’s also managing some hefty worries off the race track.

“It weighs on you every time, every day of the week,” Busch said.  

In December 2021, M&M Mars announced that the company was ending its sponsorship of Joe Gibbs Racing, including Busch’s No. 18 Toyota. His future has remained up in the air throughout the summer, leading to “a lot more gray hair.”

As the Cup Series nears the final stretch, Busch is still without a contract for 2023, but at NASCAR’s Playoff Media Day, the driver established that he had options.

Returning to Joe Gibbs Racing was one, and he shared that there was “more than one” team with a contract offer in front of him. Though the day can’t come soon enough for Busch’s taste, it’s likely that a decision will be reached within the next seven to 10 days.

“I was hoping yesterday. Needs to be,” Busch said. “Again, I’m not going to put a timeline on it, but time is ticking.”

The alignment that Kyle Busch Motorsports has with Toyota in the NASCAR Truck Series also holds weight in Busch’s decision, making the situation “80 to 85 percent harder than if it was just me.”

Other manufacturers remain open to the Truck Series program, but the potential switch continues to be a factor nonetheless.

While the clock counts down in regard to contract negotiations, it’s also ticking toward the start of the playoffs. And for Busch, more time behind the wheel might just be the best thing on the planet right now.

“I’m a racer, that’s all I know. So when I get to the race track every weekend, I put my helmet on and that’s what I focus on, is just being myself,” Busch said.

On Sundays, the only thing he has to think about is making the car go fast. And during the playoffs, his focus is to put the No. 18 in the Championship  4. However, Busch continues to entertain thoughts of winning the championship, even if it seems out of reach for where he’s at right now.

He described his team as a “top five, top-six” finisher, but stressed that a number of the shortcomings that have held them back this season are fixable for the playoffs.

“We just need to clean up some of our mistakes. Speeding on pit road, that’s on me, running over the air hose or whatever, things,” Busch said.

Other costly errors have been out of Busch’s control, including several multi-car crashes he’s been caught up in. One notable wreck came at Michigan International Speedway in early August where Busch finished outside the top 10 for the eighth race in a row.

Then again, Busch hasn’t been known to take the easy path. For both of his Cup Series championships in 2015 and 2019, Busch arose out of tense circumstances to claim the title.

It may be a different situation this year, but things are still tense.

With having to find a new sponsor, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver realizes that things could change significantly — or that he might have to change.

“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,” Busch said. “So will that have to change? Most likely.”

The reality of what having a new sponsor will look like for Busch is still unknown. The decision of what team he’ll be racing for still constantly weighs on him.

But at the first round of playoffs on Sunday at Darlington Raceway, whether he was born to do it or not, Busch can just be the guy he’s best at being: a racer.

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