Kyle Busch recently described his journey through the free agency process as “hard as hell.” The two-time Cup Series champion has been in the headlines for months over the uncertainty of his future after 15 years of stability with Joe Gibbs Racing.
This past week, the 37-year-old driver visited with reporters on Playoff Media Day. Unsurprisingly, his future was a hot topic of conversation. During that discussion, the future NASCAR Hall of Famer admitted that if this experience has taught him one thing, it’s that he has to change his public persona.
Kyle Busch’s future is unclear
Back in April, Kyle Busch shocked everyone with his remarks about his future at Joe Gibbs Racing, directing reporters to talk with the team owner about his contract situation. Little did we know, that was just the beginning.
Now, almost five months later, Busch’s future remains unclear. If anything seems more certain, it’s that he won’t be returning to JGR in 2023. The most recent speculation has Ty Gibbs replacing him.
Busch has been rumored to land with various teams, including Stewart-Haas Racing, 23XI Racing, Richard Childress Racing, and Kaulig Racing.
Busch admits he needs to change persona
The off-track drama of his contract situation has taken a toll on the driver. He’s admitted as much. The on-track results have reflected that turmoil with uncharacteristic mistakes and lackluster performances. Despite those struggles, Busch did back into a win at the Bristol dirt race, and secure a berth in the postseason.
This week at Playoff Media Day, the driver visited with reporters and was asked, based on what’s transpired and not finding a big sponsor to fill the void left by the departure of M&M’s, if he needed to somehow change his public persona, which can sometimes rub fans and businesses the wrong way.
“Having the freedom of being able to act or react to certain situations the way that I could through the support of M&M’s allowed me to be as successful as I was on Sundays. One thousand percent,” Busch said. “Will that have to change? Most likely. How much? 10 percent? 15 percent? I don’t know. Maybe it’s 18 percent that you have to change. I don’t know what that is or what that looks like. So obviously, that’s still to be determined.”
What does that change look like?
Busch has been known as a quote machine for the media. It’s simply because he’s opinionated and isn’t afraid of sharing it. That, however, can be a double-edged sword. It might be good for publicity, but it’s not the right kind when it includes words of the four-letter variety. As Busch suggested, M&M’s allowed that type of reaction to happen in the past.
With the next partner, the driver might have to clean it up by taming or eliminating those raw and sometimes inflammatory comments. It could be a more sanitized version of Busch.
It’s not what his fans want. Heck, according to Busch, it’s not what NASCAR executives want. They love the villainous role he’s played. But the times are a changing and, as strange as it sounds, the only multi-champion driver must be accommodating to the desires of his sponsors if he wants to race. Unfortunately, that’s the business model of the sport, and it’s not changing anytime soon.