20 January 2012
Busch brothers team up for Nationwide
Kyle was asked how well the two volatile brothers could possibly get on in an owner/driver relationship, with Kurt having become known in 2011 for his tirades over the team radio directed at his previous car owner Roger Penske.
"It depends on how much of a respect level he has for me," responded Kyle. "I've got the utmost respect for Kurt and that's why I offered him this opportunity and that it came together." Tongue-in-cheek, he added: "I also think that I weigh 180 pounds, he weighs 145 pounds so I think I've got a little bit on him!"
"Kyle has done an impressive job in building this race team and I'm proud to be part of it," insisted Kurt in reply. "It's a key deal for both of us. He's a champion, I'm a champion. He's the most winningest driver in Nationwide. That says it all about Kyle and how he drives and his intensity behind the wheel always shines through. I have the same fire in the belly."
Kyle added that the Nationwide drives in the #54 will be his only non-Cup outings in 2012, and that he won't be running any races for his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team operation this year, following strong advice from his Cup team owner Joe Gibbs. Instead, Kyle has signed Jason Leffler to drive his team's truck in 14 races so far confirmed this season; a possible deal to field a second truck for NASCAR Mexico champion German Quiroga now looks unlikely, Kyle added.
Kyle will also no longer be driving the Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide car in 2012, having been stood down from the car toward the end of last year following Kyle's own brush with controversy when he was suspended from a weekend of NASCAR racing after intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday Jr. in a Truck race at Texas. The decision now leaves him free to concentrate instead on his Cup duties and on Kyle Busch Motorsport's maiden year in NASCAR's second-tier championship.
"Joe is not necessarily a fan of us, but he's open to it," said Kyle when asked how his Cup team owner felt about his driver going into competition with JGR in Nationwide. "He understands, too, this is Kyle Busch Motorsports, and there's a family of people that work here that need to have an income, and we put food on the table for a lot of people.
"We want to see this place be around for a long time," added Kyle of the KBM business he started two years ago. "It's a beautiful facility and near and dear to my heart. I didn't inherit this. This is something I've been building."
Kurt has already announced a "limited number" of Nationwide races with Phoenix that include the restrictor-plate events at Daytona and Talladega, and any more will presumably now have to fit around his drives in the KBM #54. With Phoenix being a Chevy-powered team and KBM being in the Toyota stable, Kurt has had to obtain special permission to cross manufacturer lines to run both engines in the same season.
"I just have to respect who each are with the Toyota brand and their information and the Chevrolet people as well," agreed Kurt. "We need to understand that line of information, and I'm here to respect that. This is one of the first times you'll see a driver bouncing between manufacturers."
KBM has hired proven industry veteran Mike Beam to lead the team for the Busch brothers, fresh from winning the 2011 Nationwide owners' championship with Carl Edwards and Roush Fenway Racing. Edwards previously announced he was pulling out of Nationwide racing in 2012, leaving Beam at a loose end at RFR until the offer from Busch arrived.
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