Toyota, JGR make contingency plans while still trying to sign Kyle Busch


While Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing remain committed to sign Kyle Busch to a contract extension, a Toyota executive told NBC Sports that they are “contingency planning.”

David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, said the manufacturer and JGR are “trying to find a path” to keep the two-time Cup champion with them — Busch’s home since 2008.

“If there’s not sponsorship there, maybe we can create a bridge somewhere,” Wilson said. 

If not, Busch could be headed elsewhere. It’s a notion that seemed implausible earlier this year, but Busch told reporters last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that he’s talked with other teams. 

“We have to have contingency plans,” Wilson said. “Rest assured, we’re thinking about every way this can go.”

Asked if he was confident of a deal getting done, or if he foresaw having to say goodbye to Busch at the end of the season, Wilson said: “I wish I could handicap it for you … but I just can’t. We’re in a bad place right now … we’ve got some tremendously heavy lifting in front of us.”

The issue for Joe Gibbs Racing is that it has not been able to secure sponsorship for Busch next season. Until that is done, the organization is not likely to sign Busch to a new deal.

JGR has been searching for a sponsor since Mars, Inc., announced in December that this would be its final season with the team and in the sport. 

A potential sponsor fell through earlier and reset the sponsorship search. Wilson said that there have been talks with “a number of sponsors.”

“I use the baseball analogy in that a couple of months ago it was it was much easier to imagine success, and we had some partners that we thought we were going to land,” Wilson told NBC Sports. “And that was the bottom of the third inning (of a nine-inning game). Now we’re in the bottom of the seventh. And the fact is that we don’t have it.

“Joe (Gibbs) and I talk every night. This is the most important consideration that we are struggling with and working on. Our resolve has not changed one bit. We are not going to quit. … Sometimes these deals come together very late.

“It doesn’t get easier, that’s for certain. For Kyle, I feel terribly because the distraction, I think he admitted this, but the distraction now is real. While I say that Kyle is one of those athletes that can strap on his helmet and put that aside, he’s still human.

“So, my counsel to him (this past weekend) was around the partnership and how important this remains for Toyota and for Coach Gibbs. Made sure he knew we hadn’t given up. Just urged him to keep his head in the game and maintain a collaborative perspective because we’re going to need him to get this done as well. … It’s a different marketplace and we’re facing some headwinds with the economy that everybody is facing.”

Wilson did not reveal the contingency plans that Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing had to keep Busch or what those plans would be should Busch leave. 

The question is where Busch would go. Stewart-Haas Racing has an opening after Aric Almirola announced before the season that this would be his last full-time Cup ride. But the notion of Almirola returning to keep sponsor Smithfield on board is gaining momentum.

If Busch left, Ty Gibbs would be a natural choice even though Joe Gibbs has said that the organization seeks to keep the 19-year-old in the Xfinity Series another year. But with eight wins in his first 36 races — a 22.2% winning percentage — maybe it would be better to have him move up.

COTA Xfinity starting lineup: AJ Allmendinger takes pole


AJ Allmendinger, who won this race a year ago, will start on the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas.

Allmendinger earned the pole with a lap of 92.173 mph Friday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Xfinity starting lineup

He will be joined on the front row Sammy Smith (91.827 mph).
Ty Gibbs (91.665) will start third. Sheldon Creed (91.652) qualified fourth. Parker Kligerman (91.195) will start fifth.

Cup driver William Byron will start ninth. Byron’s time was disallowed for cutting the esses. Cole Custer, who will start 10th, didn’t make a lap in the final round of qualifying.

Cup driver Aric Almirola (91.269) qualified 13th. Truck Series racer Carson Hocevar (90.669) will start 17th. Alex Labbe (90.476) will start 23rd. He’s filling in for Josh Williams, who is serving a one-race suspension for parking his car at the start/finish line of last weekend’s race at Atlanta.

COTA Truck starting lineup: Ross Chastain wins pole


Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.

Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).

More: COTA Truck starting lineup

Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.

Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.

Tyler Reddick leads Cup practice at COTA


Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.

Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Cup practice results

Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).

Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.

Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.

Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.


Saturday COTA Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


Austin Hill, the dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series through the early weeks of the season, will be looking for his first Xfinity road course win Saturday.

Hill has won three of the season’s first five races, scoring victories at Daytona, Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Hill has been close in previous road course runs. He has a second at COTA, a third at Portland, a fourth at Road America and a ninth at Indianapolis.

MORE: Dr. Diandra takes a look at top Cup road course drivers

Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger own wins in the previous Xfinity races at COTA.

Allmendinger and three other Cup Series regulars — Aric Almirola, William Byron and Ty Gibbs — are scheduled to race in the Xfinity event.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 5:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled at 5:19 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 2 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Jordan Thiessen of Pit Boss Grills at 5 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by recording artist Payton Keller at 5:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 46 laps (156 miles) on the 3.41-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 14. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 5 p.m. … NASCAR RaceDay airs at 4 p.m. on FS1. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and can be heard at …SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. Temperature of 82 at race time. No chance of rain.

LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last March’s Xfinity race at COTA. Austin Hill was two seconds behind in second place. Cole Custer finished third.