For a brief time, Kyle Busch drove for Hendrick Motorsports; He recalls the phone call from Rick Hendrick
Kyle Busch is currently in a contract year with Joe Gibbs Racing. The 20-year veteran is in search of a new sponsor and has hopes to renew with the team for 2021.
But, Busch’s career nearly took a completely different path.
In 2004, Kyle Busch made his NASCAR debut in the No. 84 with Hendrick Motorsports. After a part-time season, he was hired to drive the No. 5 full-time in 2005.
He quickly started setting records. Kyle Busch became the youngest pole winner in the NASCAR Cup Series at California Speedway in 2005. He also went on to win his first race.
In 2007, Kyle Busch and his brother Kurt were racing in the NASCAR All-Star race. Kyle forced a move and they both wrecked.
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“I had really good communication with Ricky Hendrick, who’s Rick’s son,” Busch told Graham Bensinger.
“He was a bit more my age, 7-8 years older than I was. He was unfortunately killed in a tragic plane accident in 2004.”
“I’m 18 [at the time], so going and talking to Rick Hendrick, who’s 48-50, is not quite my guy. There was something not clicking with me, with the team.”
“Also, the 2007 incidents at the All-Star Race. My outbursts and acting out, a few times, was ultimately the demise of the relationship.”
After that incident, Jeff Gordon called in Kyle Busch for a meeting.
“However, that conversation went to him, that was the message delivered to Rick. That’s why Rick said what he said.”
“But, it could have been fixed. It wasn’t a relationship to terminate.”
“Rick called me, ‘Hey, we’re going to have to go in a different direction for next year. You’re not going to be our guy.’ “
“I thought my career was over. I was getting released by the number one team in the sport. Who the hell else is going to want to take a chance on a firestorm of emotions?”
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Joe Gibbs steps in
“It was like free agency in football, we were recruiting,” Joe Gibbs stated.
“I used to tell everybody, ‘The only thing that’s different about this is, the difference with recruiting in NASCAR is, money is legal.’ “
“We were after him.”
However, Kyle Busch took less money to race with Joe Gibbs.
“I get released from Hendrick and I go on the race shop tour. I visited with 8 different teams.”
“Joe said, ‘You’re kinda this fireball of emotions type kid and you’re kinda in trouble a lot. Why should we hire you?’ “
“I said, ‘You probably shouldn’t.’ “
However, Joe Gibbs called Busch every day.
“I didn’t have that with Rick. I didn’t hear from him a whole lot. Joe kinda became that grandfather type guy.”
Joe Gibbs added, “Kyle is forceful, he’s going to tell you what he’s thinking.”
“In 2015 we won the championship. About halfway to the media center, I hear him go, ‘Gosh dangit!’ “
“I said, ‘What?!’ “
“He goes, ‘I should have held out on that contract!’ He was upset that he had already signed his contract”
Kyle Busch has claimed 60 NASCAR Cup Series wins, 61 of those have come with Joe Gibbs Racing. He claimed his first championship in 2015 and followed that up with his second in 2019.
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Kyle Busch | Joe Gibbs Racing | Hendrick Motorsports | NASCAR