Why Kyle Busch May Not Re-Sign With Joe Gibbs Racing

Christopher NgoContributor IOctober 9, 2009


He's with a winning organization and has full sponsorship for many years to come from this team. It would be crazy for any driver to leave this type of scenario especially in these difficult economic times where teams are downsizing and sponsorship is limited.

With the two years since Kyle Busch signed on with Joe Gibbs Racing piloting the #18 M&M's/Interstate Batteries, thus far he has amassed 3 poles, 12 wins, and is closing on his first NASCAR Nationwide Series title. To any driver, it would be crazy to leave this organization with the amount of success achieved at this organization.

Despite the wins, Busch has not won a championship. Sure, it took Bobby Labonte at the same organization 6 years until he finally won what was then the Winston Cup Championship and Tony Stewart 4 years to win his first of two Cup titles. But, Busch was ever so close in 2008 to win his first.

Kyle Busch had almost a dream season in 2008, his first year with Joe Gibbs Racing. With eight wins and seeding first in the Chase for the Championship, he looked like the driver that had to be beaten in order to win the championship. However, two blown engines at the start of the Chase caused him to finish the season 10th in the final point standings.

It was redemption time for the #18 team in 2009. Despite winning 4 races tying Mark Martin for regular season wins, they were struck with another heartbreak. By the end of the Richmond race, a slightly more consistent Brian Vickers was able to hold an eight point lead over Kyle Busch for the final seed in the Chase.

Inside Kyle Busch, he may feel that the organization can win battles, but when it comes down to when it matters the most, they cannot deliver.

One of the factors that he may not win the championship is his crew chief. Remember in 2008 how Steve Addington seemed to get so much praise for the wins Kyle Busch was receiving? Did people forget that he was there since 2004 with Bobby Labonte and J. J. Yeley? In 2004, after Pocono Raceway in the spring, Labonte was what looked to be a solid year sitting 3rd in points until crew chief Michael “Fatback” McSwain was surprisingly let go from his duties. A little later, Steve Addington began crew chief duties for the #18. Labonte freefalled from 3rd to missing the chase come Richmond when he still had a legitimate chance of making the Chase. The 2005 campaign faired worse than 2004, and it seemed that there was no chemistry between Addington and Yeley in the following two years.

Then came 2008 where it seemed like finally a great crew chief and driver combination had arrived. However, other factors contributed to the success of their 2008 campaign.

First, 2008 was the first year that the Car of Tomorrow was implemented full time. Despite that the CoT ran in 2007 in select number of races, the one area that the cars did not run were the intermediate, 1.5 mile – 2.0 mile tracks such as Atlanta, Michigan, etc. With being in a virtually a common body with little tolerances and a big mystery on how the CoTs would run at the intermediates, the only solution to this problem is horsepower, which Joe Gibbs Racing got plenty when switching to Toyota in 2008.

From 2003-2007, JGR ran Chevrolets but they were considered third on the priority list of GM under Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress. When JGR switch to Toyotas in 2008, the organization became a very high priority to the manufacturer; thus, JGR started receiving the best parts to build engine and chassis. It was Christmas for JGR as they were able to optimize the horsepower of both their Sprint and Nationwide cars to the point where in Nationwide it was discovered by NASCAR’s Research & Development that they had 20 more horsepower than the rest of the competition. That alone can be contributing factor for the many wins of Kyle Busch since every driver races with a similar body style.

However, Steve Addington has yet to prove that he is a great crew chief. When Kyle Busch is having a bad run, does anyone ever remember a race where they rebounded from running in 30th most of the night to managing a top 10 or 15 at the end of the race? Not really. At the same time, how many times have Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus ran in the 30s all night and rebounded to a top 5 or 10 at the end of the race? Quite a few.

At these moments is where championships are won. The only way Steve Addington and Kyle Busch could ever win is if their car is fast right from the shop.

In 2009, the competition has caught up to JGR where the organization could only put Denny Hamlin into the Chase. Yes, Joey Logano is in his first full year and Kyle Busch just missed the cutoff by eight points. However, these performances do factor into the question, “Can I win a championship with this type of organization?”

Kyle Busch has a contract with Joe Gibbs Racing until 2010. Currently, J.D. Gibbs has offered a contract extension, which Busch has not signed. Joe Gibbs Racing was built on “winning with people” philosophy and they have undeniable faith in their personal. However, if there are no changes, or performance does not improve in 2010, then Kyle Busch maybe the hottest commodity come 2010 silly season.