NASCAR Cup Series
Kimi Räikkönen, Project91 Arrives with No Fear, Big Hopes
Aug 20, 2022
Kyle Busch doesn't have an update for his Cup Series future, but he knows life is going to look drastically different moving forward no matter what happens in the aftermath of a free agency process that has carried on throughout the summer.
"No new update," Busch said on Saturday morning during a media availability at Watkins Glen International. "Is that fair. There isn’t, sorry."
Has he been told yet that he may or may not return to the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 in 2023?
"I feel like that would be an update," Busch said. "That has not been told to me. Not yet."
Busch has been with Gibbs since 2008 and the anchor of that agreement has always been his prolific winning percentage and a corporate partner in Mars, Incorporated to support the No. 18 throughout a majority of the season.
When Mars, manufacturer of M&Ms and Skittles, decided it would be leaving NASCAR at the end of the season, it left Gibbs without a partner to absorb both the driver salary and the costs of fielding a car for 38 races a year.
Finding a new partner, or even a group of partners, has not been an easy process and it could result in Busch racing for a new organization for the first time in 15 years. And while Busch has made a tremendous amount of money over the past two decades and is set for life, it doesn’t mean this summer has been without stress.
"Let’s be frank about it, I’m an athlete," Busch said. "I make a lot of money. People aren't going to feel or shouldn't feel sorry for me. I've made a good living. So that's not the premise of this answer, but it's been hard as hell. It's been a lot of sleepless nights figuring out what your future is, and that sort of thing.
"Everybody's like, ‘Oh, well, you've made plenty of money. You're fine. You don't have anything to worry about,’ and I'm like, ‘Yeah, that's true.’ But you still want to do what you love to do, right?"
Busch has lived on a salary earned on the basis of his success, but also as a byproduct the sport when it was in a different era. Drivers salaries are not what they used to be, but the case can also be made that Busch is one of the biggest difference-makers an organization can put in a car and warrants amongst the largest salaries.
The two-time Cup Series champion wants to be paid a salary commensurate to his value, but also one that allows him to continue growing his brand and energy drink business -- not to mention one of the most wildly successful race team and development programs of the last decade.
"I'm a racer and only ever known how to race, nothing else, trying to do other business projects and things like that, but none of them have really blown up and taken off," Busch said. "So, it has been hard and figuring out all of that is certainly tough."
Busch says this free agency is different than the one after the 2007 season because now he has a wife and children, their futures, to consider too.
"All I had was an agent that was helping me and now I'm kind of all on my own doing it along with Samantha and our family, but, you know, going through many of the same things, but it's way, way harder because now you have Kyle Busch Motorsports that you've got to think about," Busch said. "You've got a building that you've got to pay on, you know, you've got a building note and all that sort of stuff.
"There are a lot a lot a lot of pieces and that's why it's not so simple. If you look at each aspect of everything of my life, which some of you may not know or may not fully know, is there's just a lot. So, trying to take care of all those pieces and make sure everything goes as it was or as it has been the last few years would certainly be nice."
And to that point, Rowdy Energy isn’t going to be on one of his cars, because to his point, it’s not to that level yet.
Busch had hoped, and still does, that the time can come where he can race alongside side his son Brexton in the Truck Series and have Rowdy Energy support some of that ambition. But his vision always included having a partner like Mars well into this decade.
"It makes decent money, but the problem is that the expenses that you have in which to build this business to build this company and all that sort of stuff, we're not black yet," Busch said. "We're still in the red.
"So no, you can't default on a loan in order to pay yourself sponsorship. That's not going to happen.
"So you know, the premise behind this was I had another 10 year runway to go and keep going and with M&M’s and Mars … We never thought this position would be here. And so I was going to have that chance to build and get it going and get it off its feet and we would find out in seven or eight years whether or not it would be something that would be sustainable … or support Brexton or whatever but it's way too early for that. So unfortunately, that doesn't exist."
Busch said he there are multiple opportunities out there for him, but it just comes down to balancing a desire to race and win championships immediately with a salary that allows him to build on that foundation for the future.
"There's a big change coming," Busch said. "And so, is it worth it to go run around and not have an opportunity to win right away versus building something versus jumping in something that can win?
"All those questions are certainly being weighed out. And so, again, that's also why it's not so simple and so easy. So, thankfully there are opportunities out there. There are Cup jobs available. But again, it will not look the same as what it has for the last 15 years."