Joe Gibbs Racing could face another similar problem in 2023 after losing Kyle Busch in 2022 from a long-time sponsor. However, Kyle Busch has managed to secure a position at Richard Childress Racing, where he will be racing the #8 Chevrolet, replacing Tyler Reddick. Tyler Reddick will be racing for 23XI Racing in the #45 Toyota to replace Kurt Busch, who was injured during the Pocono race.
Even after it was revealed that M&M’s would not be returning to the No. 18 car for the 2023 season, it seemed impossible at this time last year that Kyle Busch, a two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, would be driving for a team other than Joe Gibbs Racing.
It’ll return down the road but for now it’s gonna be weird not seeing the 18 on track in 2023. pic.twitter.com/Bx0p6HDG4P
— Darian Gilliam (@BlackFlagMatter) November 15, 2022
But as more time passed and no agreement was made, it became apparent that the 37-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada driver’s comeback to Joe Gibbs Racing was far from inevitable. Busch was practically forced to search elsewhere for a 2023 ride when what was formerly thought to be a promising sponsorship development fell through at some point during the early parts of the 2022 season. Ultimately, Joe Gibbs Racing chose Ty Gibbs to take his place instead. Ty is the current Xfinity Series winner and the team owner’s grandson.
Joe Gibbs Racing might face a similar problem with Denny Hamlin in the 2023 season. Denny Hamlin has only ever competed in the Cup Series for one team. The veteran driver of the No. 11 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing will enter his 19th season with the team in 2023, and it is unknown if he has a contract that would allow him to continue driving after 2023.
FedEx, who has been his main sponsor ever since he joined the team, has yet to sign a deal to return to the No. 11 Toyota in 2024. It is hoped that Hamlin won’t end up like Busch. Before the 2021 season, Hamlin partnered with Michael Jordan to start 23XI Racing. Since then, rumors have persisted that the 42-year-old Chesterfield, Virginia native may choose to drive for his team for the next few seasons before calling it a career.
He has spoken about this prospect numerous times, adamantly stating that he would want to end his career with Joe Gibbs Racing under the wheel of a FedEx-sponsored No. 11 Toyota and go out on his own way. Is it feasible for Joe Gibbs Racing to lose their most seasoned driver, a three-time Daytona 500 champion, in the same way that they lost their second-longest serving driver, a two-time Cup Series champion, Kyle Busch?
M&M’s and FedEx are in quite different positions; while the former announced immediately after the 2021 season finished that the 2022 season would be their last, both companies have yet to make any announcements regarding the 2024 season. But there is a startling similarity in the uncertainty and the general unwillingness of fans to accept the possibility that any changes could actually occur.