Kyle Busch fans will remember the 2022 Cup Series season as one rollercoaster of a ride. And it wasn’t limited to the track. In fact, most fans won’t even remember the No. 18’s performance because, if we’re being honest, it was largely forgettable.
What everyone will remember is the months-long free agency journey that ended last week with the two-time Cup Series champ announcing that he will be leaving Joe Gibbs Racing after 15 seasons and joining Richard Childress Racing in 2023.
A week after the announcement and a couple days after Busch was eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, his earliest career exit, JGR officials made an announcement of their own that Busch and teammate Denny Hamlin will be swapping pit crews for the remainder of the season. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t well received by Rowdy Nation.
Kyle Busch swapping pit crews with Denny Hamlin for rest of 2022
While Kyle Busch has been wildly inconsistent this season as far as overall results are concerned, scoring just a single win on the Bristol dirt, it hasn’t been because of his pit crew. The No. 18 team has been one of the best on pit road all season, ranking second on four-tire pit stops, according to Racing Insights.
Conversely, Denny Hamlin’s team has had its share of struggles this year, including over the wall too soon, equipment interference, and the most glaring blunder, loose wheels. Crew chief Chris Gabehart and two pit crew members served a four-race suspension after the first runaway wheel at Dover earlier this year. It happened again this past weekend at Bristol.
The three-time Daytona 500 winner has been outspoken all season about his team’s pit road issues, and on Tuesday, a few days after Busch was eliminated from the playoffs, JGR did something about it when the organization announced the Nos. 11 and 18 cars would be swapping pit crews for the remainder of the season, beginning at Texas.
Busch fans react to move
With Busch eliminated and Hamlin advancing to the Round of 12, JGR understandably wants to give those cars still in contention the best shot at winning. The pit crew swap does just that. While that move makes complete sense, it’s also easy to see how some Rowdy fans might view it as a snub and just another thing where their driver has been wronged.
They’ll point to the car’s engine failures in two of the three playoff races. Conspiracy theorists jumped all over Busch’s unexpected problems, some suggesting it was the organization sabotaging his car.
This latest decision by the organization only feeds into that line of thinking. Many supporters interpret the switch as team officials saying, Kyle is moving on to another team, so they’re moving on from him.
Swapping pit crews isn’t uncommon
While some Busch fans are up in arms about the pit crew swap, the move isn’t uncommon. In fact, it happened earlier this season at JGR when the team ordered the swapping of select members from the No. 20 of Christopher Bell with the No. 23 of Bubba Wallace.
Many questioned that move, including longtime reporter Dave Moody. Interestingly, since that switch, both drivers have made trips to Victory Lane.
JGR is hoping this pit crew change with Busch benefits the No. 11 team the same way and possibly helps it make a serious bid at a championship.
Time will tell whether or not it helps. But no matter what happens, you can be sure fans of the No. 18 car will be watching closely and looking for any miscues on pit road so they can direct more anger at the organization for what is perceived as less-than-respectful treatment of the two-time Champion and a future Hall of Famer.