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Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson shed light on the dire nature of contract talks with Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch, telling NBC Sports that the manufacturer is making contingency plans for all outcomes.
Busch, a 60-time winner in the NASCAR Cup Series, is in the final year of his deal as driver of the No. 18 Toyota, a car he’s wheeled to 56 of those victories. Last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Busch admitted that he had been in talks with other teams as the negotiations have extended into the summer months.
Wilson has spoken of Busch’s talent in glowing terms, noting the urgency of keeping one of the automaker’s most prolific racing starts. He said in May that “any scenario that doesn‘t have Kyle Busch retiring from Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota would be a monstrous disappointment.”
Asked about the chances for such a return in July, Wilson told NBC Sports’ Dustin Long: “I wish I could handicap it for you … but I just can‘t. We‘re in a bad place right now … we‘ve got some tremendously heavy lifting in front of us.”
Toyota has made two big signing splashes in recent weeks. Joe Gibbs Racing announced the return of Martin Truex Jr. to its No. 19 Toyota on June 24, and Tyler Reddick was introduced as a 23XI Racing signee on July 12 for its 2024 campaign.
Meanwhile, Busch’s unresolved contract has been further complicated by the departure of sponsor Mars/M&M’s at season’s end. That search for backing has been another piece for Wilson and Gibbs to consider.
“I use the baseball analogy in that a couple of months ago it was much easier to imagine success, and we had some partners that we thought we were going to land,” Wilson told NBC Sports. “And that was the bottom of the third inning. Now we‘re in the bottom of the seventh. And the fact is that we don‘t have it.
“Joe and I talk every night. This is the most important consideration that we are struggling with and working on. Our resolve has not changed one bit. We are not going to quit. … Sometimes these deals come together very late. It doesn‘t get easier, that‘s for certain. For Kyle, I feel terribly because the distraction, I think he admitted this, but the distraction now is real. While I say that Kyle is one of those athletes that can strap on his helmet and put that aside, he‘s still human.”
Busch’s primary sponsor has placed its name on Sunday’s Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway, the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 (3 p.m. ET, USA, NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM). Busch currently ranks sixth in the Cup Series points, claiming one win earlier this year on Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt.