Joe Gibbs says team is ‘working as hard as we can’ to keep Kyle Busch

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INDIANAPOLIS — Car owner Joe Gibbs told NBC Sports on Saturday that his team and Toyota are “working as hard as we can” to secure sponsorship and sign Kyle Busch to a contract extension.

“It’s just trying to get something done,” Gibbs said before the Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “You get up every day and go after it as hard as you can. You would hope that this would have already been resolved but it’s not. It’s been hard.”

Busch and Gibbs seemed to be in a good spot with a potential deal with Oracle before the technology company decided against it. A recent report stated that Oracle has discussed a $1 billion cost-cutting initiative that could lead to thousands of layoffs.

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With Oracle out, JGR is tasked with trying to find approximately $20 million in sponsorship with less than seven months before the next season.

“You’ve got to have sponsorship in this sport to be able to go forward,” Busch said. “It’s not as simple as being a basketball player and being a Michael Jordan or a LeBron James or something like that and being a really good player and the team losing a sponsor and then saying, ‘OK, Michael and LeBron, we have to let you go because we can’t afford you.’

“Again you have to have some sponsorship on this car. Unfortunately, there’s not that unicorn. There’s not that big 20 million dollar number out there. I’d like to be able to piece it together, but I haven’t heard much on that yet, either.”

Gibbs told NBC Sports that he talked with Busch on Saturday morning.

“We’ve got things going on,” Gibbs said. “We’re not sure what’s going to happen, or is something going to finish up the way we want it to finish it up. We’re working on things. It’s just a hard, hard deal, really.”

Asked if he saw a scenario where Busch was not driving for JGR, Gibbs said: “We don’t want that. Toyota doesn’t want that.”

David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, told NBC Sports last week that JGR and Toyota were working on contingency plans while still trying to sign Busch. One potential would be a bridge deal, spanning only next year instead of a typical three-year deal. 

While such a deal likely would not match Busch’s current salary, it would provide more time for JGR to find the sponsorship needed to pay the two-time Cup champion a salary worthy of his ability, something likely in excess of $10 million. 

Busch said Saturday he would be “willing to take concessions and race for under my market value and go forward in being able to stay in the seat that I’ve made home for the last 15 years.” 

With Busch’s status uncertain, one option for JGR and Toyota would be Gibbs’ grandson, Ty. The 19-year-old shocked NASCAR when he won in his first Xfinity Series start last year. He has eight Xfinity wins since last year and has many people believing he can make the move to Cup full-time.

Ty Gibbs made his Cup debut last weekend at Pocono, filling in for an injured Kurt Busch at 23XI Racing. Ty Gibbs is back in the car at Indianapolis with Kurt Busch out a second consecutive week because of concussion-like symptoms.

Joe Gibbs has been impressed with his grandson.

“Every race is kind of a learning experience for him and growing, so I think that’s what he’s focused on. We are just trying to give him as much experience as we can,” Joe Gibbs said. 

Ty Gibbs said Saturday that he’s not looking to what could happen next year.

“I’m not making those decisions,” Ty Gibbs said. “I can spend as much time thinking about hypotheticals, but hypotheticals will never win races.”

Kyle Busch, though, has to look at other options beyond Joe Gibbs Racing. He has said he’s talked to other teams.

One natural consideration would be Kaulig Racing, which has had three different drivers in the No. 16 car this year. Team owner Matt Kaulig talks often going for wins by saying the team is “trophy hunting.” Kaulig also has said a key tenant in his view of business is that “either you continue to grow or you begin to die.” 

In April 2021 Kaulig told NBC Sports: “We want to be one of the bigger teams in NASCAR. That is our goal. We do want to dominate. We do want to win races. We look at the other organizations out there like Gibbs, Penske and Hendrick. We want to beat those organizations.”

Signing Kyle Busch would help elevate Kaulig Racing and make it  more of a challenger to the sport’s top teams. 

Kaulig told NBC Sports before Saturday’s Xfinity race that “we haven’t talked to Kyle at all … No conversation.”

Kevin Harvick said Saturday that he would be “100 percent open” to having Kyle Busch as a teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing.

Stewart-Haas Racing has an opening for next season with Aric Almirola announcing before the season that he would retire from full-time Cup racing after this season. However, there is talk that Almirola could return to the car in either a part-time or full-time role as a way to keep sponsor Smithfield.

There’s no way Kyle Busch doesn’t have a lot of options,” Harvick said. “I know there’s a lot of things that go on around Kyle, but in the end Kyle is still one of the best that’s ever come through this garage. There’s a lot of teams that can say that they’ve never had one of those types of drivers. He literally could rebuild an organization if somebody took a chance that hasn’t had one of those types of drivers.”

The idea of teaming with Kyle Busch excites Harvick.

“I can tell you that having a teammate like Kyle makes my car run faster,” he said. “Because when you have all the cars running fast, they all run faster, quicker. I’m 100 percent open to having Kyle as a teammate.”