Kyle Busch’s Near-Crash at Phoenix Next Gen Testing Confirms Why He and Joe Gibbs Racing Should Be Considered Serious Threat to Win in 2022

The reason Kyle Busch and multiple drivers are Next Gen testing in Phoenix is simple: The teams want to see how the car performs on the track that will be raced twice in 2022, including the NASCAR Cup Series championship in November. 

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver understands it’s incumbent on him to push the car to its limits during the testing session so he will know just how far he can go when the fall race rolls around, and he might potentially be battling for his third title in seven years. The 36-year-old driver pushed the boundaries too far during Tuesday’s practice session and then scrambled to avoid disaster. 

Kyle Busch spins and makes impressive save at Phoenix Next Gen test

With just weeks before the start of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season and the Daytona 500, Kyle Busch and drivers from most of the teams showed up at Phoenix for the last round of Next Gen testing. After numerous test sessions in the last few months, the drivers know how the car handles, and according to most, it can be a handful, which is a great quality and should produce some entertaining racing this season. 

In addition to that new challenge, drivers like Busch are using the Phoenix testing as one final opportunity to get the car on a razor’s edge, teetering between really fast and disaster. During the first day of testing, the No. 18 car stepped over the line, and coming out of Turn 4 started turning sideways.

With the car completely facing the opposite direction from where it started and sliding backward down the track, Busch did an impressive job of keeping it from sliding up the bank into the outside wall, and he managed to escape without any contact.      

Denny Hamlin spins Next Gen car due to incorrect manual

Interestingly, in November’s Next Gen testing session at Charlotte, Hamlin had a similar slide coming out of Turn 4. The No. 11 car came up just short of a 180-degree spin, but the car acted similarly in that it backed up the track and headed for the wall. Hamlin stopped it.  

The incident took a strange turn of events days later when the three-time Daytona 500 champion revealed it wasn’t driver error but an equipment malfunction because the assembly instruction manual incorrectly identified the directions for installing one part. 

“The manual that they actually give you to put the car together has the left rear control arm upside down. So that’s a problem,” Hamlin said on the Twitter Racing Spaces forum. “So my rear end was actually skewed to the wrong side because the manual. I mean, we triple-checked. The manual has it wrong. It’s upside down. We got that fixed.”

Kyle Busch testing aggressively like Denny Hamlin  

Kyle Busch drives at Phoenix
Kyle Busch drives during the NASCAR Next Gen Test at Phoenix Raceway on January 25, 2022. | Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Hamlin avoided disaster at Charlotte and again just a couple of weeks ago during testing at Daytona. In typical JGR fashion and like Busch at Phoenix, the driver of the No. 11 was pushing the car to its limits at the superspeedway. He even admitted after completing the session that he was being overly aggressive and treated the testing more like practice for the race in which he’s had so much success in the past. 

“I stayed pretty aggressive. This is going to be pretty much my only practice for the 500,” Hamlin told NASCAR’s Alex Weaver. “One where it was kind of a freebie where it was 50-50 whether we thought we were going to bring this car back in one piece or not. We just can’t get that aggressive on race week with our practices. We’re here. He (crew chief Chris Gabehart) just thought he’d kind of let me go and get aggressive. I was pretty happy with it all.”

Busch has yet to address the media on what happened at Phoenix, but he doesn’t have to. It was obvious by the way he was driving around the championship track, doing everything in his 670 horsepower to find the most efficient line around the mile-long track in the new equipment.  

There’s a reason Busch, Hamlin, and the JGR team have been so successful in the past. It’s not by accident. In fact, it’s just the opposite and being prepared to avoid accidents. Both of their near-misses during testing proved it. It all bodes well for the team in the new car for the 2022 season. 

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