The biggest domino of the season finally dropped today, with two-time Cup Series champion Kyle Busch announcing his move to Richard Childress Racing in 2023. While he was the most accomplished driver in the Silly Season rumor mill this year, Busch’s decision was one of the final ones that was made. There were a lot of sleepless nights and stress throughout the process, but the veteran driver is ready for his next chapter.
After winning 56 Cup races in 15 years at Joe Gibbs Racing, the time had come for Kyle to move on. The team was losing a major sponsor, and the negotiations between Busch and the organization went on for months. This decision likely played a role in his struggles this season, as his lone victory this year came with a stroke of good fortune when the two leaders collided, paving the way for Kyle to win at Bristol.
That race was on the dirt, and this weekend the series returns for an elimination race under the lights, where Busch faces elimination. Now that Kyle has solidified his future, here is a recap of where things stand with Silly Season, and what could come next.
Kyle is taking over the No. 8 car, currently occupied by Tyler Reddick. While Reddick has already announced that he has signed with 23XI Racing for the 2024 season, Richard Childress says he will have a third charter to run another car for Tyler next season. Those details are still being worked on.
Hendrick Motorsports has all four of their drivers locked in for the foreseeable future, after signing Chase Elliott (5 years) and William Byron (3 years) to multi-year extensions at the beginning of the season. Team Penske also inked two of their drivers to new deals. Both Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano have extended their contracts with the organization, as they too are in contention for a championship this season.
This was supposed to be the final full-time season for Aric Almirola, but the driver of the No. 10 Ford Mustang will be back next year. After careful thought and consideration, Almirola has decided to return to Stewart Haas Racing, where he has the full support of Smithfield as his loyal sponsor. The rumor is that once the team knew that they were not going to be able to sign Busch, they opted to convince Almirola to come back.
A few more drivers signed contract extensions this season, removing their name from the Silly Season hat. Last week’s winner Bubba Wallace got a new multi-year deal with 23XI Racing. JTG Daugherty Racing also got one done for Ricky Stenhouse Jr to return to the No. 47 car next season.
There will be a new face in the No. 42 Chevrolet at Petty GMS Racing next year, as the team signed Xfinity Series driver Noah Gragson to fill that seat. Erik Jones, who won the Southern 500 two weeks ago, signed a multi-year extension with the team earlier this season.
Despite losing Busch, the JGR organization did manage to hold on to one of their former champions. Martin Truex Jr was one of the best regular season drivers this year, leading the series in multiple statistical categories. They weren’t able to check the box of the one that mattered though, which was the win column. A motivated Truex will be something special to watch next year, after the veteran driver signed a new deal to return to the No. 19 Toyota.
That brings us to the three biggest questions remaining to be answered.
- Who fills Kyle’s seat in the No. 18 Camry?
- What is the status of Kyle’s brother Kurt, who is still sidelined?
- Where does Ty Gibbs fit into this puzzle?
None of these items have a clear answer right now, and only time will tell how it all plays out. Interestingly, they are all connected, which makes things a little more complicated.
All indications are that Gibbs will slide into the 18 car, driving for his grandfather’s team. After subbing in both cars for 23XI Racing this season, he is expected to be a natural fit there. That is what makes losing Kyle a little easier to swallow for Gibbs, knowing that they have a young, generational talent ready to step in and immediately produce results.
As for Kurt, the team says that he has a ride there as long as he wants it. The 2004 Cup champion has not been in the race car since his crash during qualifying at Pocono back in July. The 44-year old has not seriously considered retirement, but his lingering recovery from concussion-like symptoms may lead him to re-evaluate before next season. This could end up being Reddick’s seat a year earlier than planned.
Trackhouse Racing has both of their drivers locked in for next season, as does RFK Racing. Front Row Motorsports has not solidified their two-car lineup for next season, but both Michael McDowell and Todd Gilliland are expected to be back.
Kaulig Racing has Justin Haley locked in, and one other open seat. Wood Brothers Racing is also set to have Harrison Burton back in their car for next year. The only other open seats are with Rick Ware Racing and Live Fast Motorsports.