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Joe Gibbs says 'it's not fun' to race against Kyle Busch at RCR

JHby:Jonathan Howard06/12/23

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Joe Gibbs
(Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images)

When Kyle Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing, it was clear that the team was going to miss having Rowdy behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota Camry. It was a long and successful partnership between the NASCAR team and driver, but it came to an end as Busch went off to drive for Richard Childress Racing after contract extension talks stalled at JGR.

Not even a full season later and Busch already has three wins and is showing that he’s a driver to watch for the championship. Things aren’t all bad for Joe Gibbs, though. Coach got to watch Martin Turex Jr. fight off Rowdy for a win at Sonoma on Sunday.

JGR is going to be successful no matter what. They have built an organization that is bigger than one driver. But having a talent like Busch leave is never easy. Especially when he seems to be reaping the rewards almost immediately.

After the race, Joe Gibbs was asked about having to race against his former driver.

“It’s not fun. We don’t like that, okay?” Gibbs said, smiling in the postrace press conference. “Certainly we didn’t want that to happen. It did.”

“He’s a real talent. Got such respect for him. We don’t like racing against Kyle. I think he’s going to win a bunch. We know it. So we got to work our guts out to try and stay in front of him. I’m just thankful today that Martin was able to stay there [in front].”

With finishes of P7, P6, P1, and P2 in the last four races, Busch has put the Cup Series on notice. However, MTJ has finishes of P8, P3, P5, and P1 in four of the last five races. Both drivers are riding high as the regular season winds down.

Joe Gibbs Racing has a championship contender

The anomaly of the 2022 season might just be a bad memory for Martin Truex Jr. and his No. 19 team. He finished 17th overall on the year, his worst finish since 2014, his first season with Furniture Row Racing. Between his championship season in 2017 and 2021, Truex finished second overall three times. His worst season during that time came in 2020 when he finished seventh overall.

When Truex starts racing strong, he usually doesn’t stop. There was a time during that 2020 season when he finished in the top-5 eight races in a row. With how strong he has been in the last six points races, we could be in the middle of another streak for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.

Based on that strong stretch of races, it might be time to call Truex a championship contender. Ten races remain in the regular season and MTJ is the points-standing leader. Starting at the Busch Light Clash, the 19 team has had a full turnaround in 2023.

Joe Gibbs might be worried about Rowdy, but it helps when his drivers are picking up wins in a convincing fashion.