Gibbs admits doubts about Busch competition
16 February 2012
One of the more surprising developments during the close-season was the announcement that Joe Gibbs Racing had allowed their star Cup driver Kyle Busch to drop out of driving for the organisation's Nationwide Series operation in 2012.
Instead, Busch has been allowed to concentrate his expected 13-15 Nationwide outings into driving the #54 Kyle Busch Motorsports car, with Kyle's brother Kurt taking the car for the remainder of the 33-race season in 2012.
That puts Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports into direct competition on the track for the first time - and Joe Gibbs isn't wild about the idea.
"I am not going to enjoy racing against him, I can tell you that," Gibbs admitted when speaking to the media at Daytona. "I probably would have voted no on that one. I probably would have been overruled, but I probably would have voted no."
Gibbs revealed that the agreement had been worked out between Busch and Gibbs' son, JGR team president JD Gibbs, without his involvement.
"He and JD got together, and the next thing I knew, I was like: 'What?'" he admitted. "Obviously he and JD got together and decided: hey, this is something that they could do.
"Listen, once all that was decided, I was all for it," Gibbs went on to insist, adding that he understood Kyle's motives as a team owner that were behind the move. "I hope he can keep all his people. That was one of the concerns ... He's got a number of people over there and he didn't want to see them in trouble."
Meanwhile, JD Gibbs admitted that it's at times like this that his father sometimes still feels the need to point out who is really in charge at JGR.
"He'll still take me outside once in a while and say, 'Whose name is on that sign? What does it say?' And I'll have to say, 'Joe Gibbs Racing,'" said JD. "And he'll be like, 'Just checking.'"
The deal to release Busch from Nationwide commitments for JGR has meant that the team can concentrate on a full-season campaign for Brian Scott, with analysts wondering if the team are lining him up as a possible replacement for Joey Logano in case Logano has another flat season in 2012.
But the main reason for allowing Kyle Busch to set up in competition with JGR in Nationwide seems to part of a larger strategy of getting Busch to cut back on his racing commitments this year. The feeling is that simultaneous runs in Cup, Nationwide and Trucks were leading to too much pressure on Busch - and resulting in the notorious on-track blow-ups such as the retaliation on Ron Hornaday Jr. that saw Busch booted out of all races at Texas last autumn.
"What we tried to do was sit with him and work out a plan for him this year," said Joe Gibbs. "Obviously part of that is reducing his schedule a little bit so he can focus more on certain things."
Busch himself insisted that Gibbs hadn't ordered him to stop driving in the Camping World Truck Series altogether, however.
"They said, 'We'd rather you not run Truck races.' So it wasn't necessarily an outright 'no,'" he insisted. "But it was a highly recommended, 'Let's leave the Trucks alone.'"
JGR has also benefitted financially from Busch's new relationship in Nationwide with drinks brand Monster Energy. As well as bankrolling the #54 Kyle Busch Motorsports for the full Nationwide Series season, Monster have also signed up as backer for Busch's #18 JGR Cup car.
"They get something out of this, too," pointed out Busch. "I brought them an associate sponsor along with it. So they can't complain too much!"