It was Austin Dillon who made first contact with Kyle Busch.
This was in the aftermath of Tyler Reddick revealing his eventual exit from the organization after the 2023 season and the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600 winner knew exactly who he wanted as a future teammate.
"How do you feel about driving for PopPop?"
"He would want me?"
"Who wouldn't want you?"
That’s how the conversation went, according to Dillon, and before long it was Busch driving to Welcome, North Carolina to discuss potentially taking his talents to Richard Childress Racing -- a chat that will soon culminate with the two-time Cup Series champion moving over to the No. 8 next season.
It’s quite a coup for Childress, one of the most decorated car owners in NASCAR Cup Series history, and one that has been trending closer towards the front over the past several years. It’s been a long time since Kevin Harvick perpetually had them in championship contention and even longer since Dale Earnhardt dominated much of the 80s and 90s.
How else do you follow-up The Intimidator and Happy Harvick but with a Rowdy? So, when Dillon told his grandfather Busch was interested, there was only one reasonable response.
"I said 'heck yeah,' I want a meeting if you can line it up," Childress said. "We had a conversation over the phone first and then we met at the Vineyards."
At first blush, it seemed like an unorthodox fit because of the ‘Hold my watch’ episode from when Childress threatened to fight Busch over an altercation with Dillon in the Truck Series 11 years ago. But that was also a long time ago, and ‘RC’ has a sense of humor.
When introducing Busch to the media on Tuesday morning at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Childress gave his future driver a signing bonus, his watch.
At 76 years old, and following 13 championships across all three national tours, Childress says reaching the pinnacle one more time is what drives and motivates him as a Cup Series team owner.
"A lot of people ask me why I'm still in this sport," Childress said. "Still wanting to win that next championship, not that I haven't had drivers to do it, not that Austin can't do it, he has two other championships, but it increases our odds to win that next championship for RCR."
Is Busch the best driver he has had since Harvick?
"Kyle Busch is a great race car driver and I'm excited to have him at RCR."
Dillon himself doesn’t shy away from Busch’s resume and the potential that he could be made a better race car driver as a result of his joining the organization. He wants to be pushed by a teammate, and that’s why he made the initial overture.
"I've never worked with a two-time Cup champion," Dillon said. "As far as wins and championships, he's the winningest teammate I'll have ever had in the shop. When I first came to RCR, I thought I could work with Kevin Harvick and that didn't work out.
"But at the end of the day, I want Kyle to have fun at RCR. I want Kyle to be himself because I think that's how he is the most successful and how the team will be successful moving forward."
In Childress, Busch found an employer that won’t shy away from the ‘Rowdy’ persona. Because like Childress himself said, this is about winning races and another championship. There were other considerations, of course. Childress handed Brexton Busch a contract to drive for RCR as soon as he becomes of age.
Busch also wanted to see Kyle Busch Motorsports continue into the foreseeable future, but the 37-year-old really just wants to win. He is one of the most intense competitors in the history of the sport, and he needed to land at a team he felt could steer him toward several more championship caliber seasons.
"It's a race team and an organization that has been around for as long as they've been around and successful as they have been, even if not at that same level the past 10 years, but they're on a real upswing," Busch said. "I'm not going to take credit for what I believe we're going to do together because they've already won three races this year.
"But I will say I feel like I can add to that and hopefully race for a championship level team for the foreseeable future."
Busch is well aware of the legacy of the organization he is about to join. He admits to even asking for the No. 3 just in case it was on the table. It was not but Childress publicly gave him something else of note regarding the Earnhardt heritage following their initial conversation in Welcome over a month ago.
"We talked about championships," Childress said. "We talked about winning races. I looked at him in his eyes and I saw that look and it was in Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s eyes. He's hungry. We're going to win."