Kyle Busch ‘cleans out his locker’ at Joe Gibbs Racing

Nigel Kinrade/Motorsport Images

Kyle Busch ‘cleans out his locker’ at Joe Gibbs Racing

NASCAR

Kyle Busch ‘cleans out his locker’ at Joe Gibbs Racing

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Kyle Busch turned in his key at Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters before the NASCAR season finale last month and his locker, so to speak, has since been cleaned out.

“After Phoenix, my interior guy was able to round up all my stuff and essentially clean out my locker for me,” Busch said during Champion’s Week in Nashville. “I’ve got all that gear and am going through some of the stuff that’s still good, some of the stuff that obviously we’ll put in my storage room — helmets, fire suits, all that sort of stuff. Some of the shoes and gloves I sign and use for giveaway items for auctions and things like that.

“That’s always been our course of action when it comes to the end of the year, so nothing really different. But I won’t be going back to the same locker next year.”

Busch said Gibbs and his new organization, Richard Childress Racing, have worked together to ensure all his driver equipment is where it needs to be. The good news is that brackets and seats all drop and bolt right in with the Next Gen car, making that part of the process simpler.

It’s a different process for Busch.

Despite the preparation for next season, the two-time Cup Series champion was still a Joe Gibbs driver while in Nashville this week with his fellow NASCAR Cup Series playoff contenders to celebrate the end of the 2022 season. Busch was recognized for winning on the Bristol dirt during Easter weekend and finishing 13th in the championship standings.

Busch has been spending quite a bit of time making the commute to Welcome, North Carolina, where the Childress campus is located, to get comfortable. There are new faces and names for Busch to learn. For the first time in over 15 years, Busch is the new guy and going through a different kind of offseason.

“I’ve been over there a few times already,” Busch said. “Things are progressing. I’m getting into the system a little bit, kind of seeing what’s there, what they have, who the people are and all that sort of stuff. It’s been good.

“I’ve got some seats over there, got some seats in cars, and just kind of going over the lay of the land of that. We’ve been looking at how their leg boards are different; their knee knockers are different. Just things are different. Trying to get the driver comfortable stuff set inside the race car so we can be all ready to go as soon as we can.”

Kyle Busch celebrated the first of his two Cup titles with JGR in 2015. Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

Busch won 56 races driving for Gibbs and two championships. Until last month when Joey Logano earned his second title, Busch was the only active multi-time champion in the Cup Series.

The split between Busch and Gibbs was unexpected and challenging for all parties involved. The loss of longtime sponsor Mars Inc. played a significant role, and Busch acknowledged there were other variables involved in his departure. Busch went through a long season of facing questions about his future while work happened behind the scenes to put together a new deal either at Gibbs or elsewhere.

Busch, however, said he’s at peace with where things stand today. Since the September announcement of where he would be racing beginning in 2023, Busch has been focused forward.

“It’s obviously been a challenging — not just this year but the last little while — so it’s kind of maybe a blessing in disguise, honestly, where it might just be time for a fresh start,” said Busch. “Time for something new and different. I’m kind of looking at it as the Tom Brady, Peyton Manning aspect where they left great teams, great organizations where they won championships, and they went on and were able to win championships somewhere else.

“I’d like to think I still have that opportunity to do that with RCR. I look at the opportunity with the new Next Gen race car as an easier move to make now with that versus years past with previous generation cars, so I think, honestly, (it) could be a lateral move.”

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