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Kyle Busch aims to follow Brady-Manning example, add to legacy in transition to RCR

Kyle Busch sported his own bling during last week’s NASCAR Awards festivities in Nashville, a heavy ring on each hand signifying his two Cup Series championships. Those shimmering keepsakes offered a reminder that current champ Joey Logano isn’t the only active driver with multiple titles and that even at a career crossroads, he’s still driven to add more decorations for his digits.

“I might as well wear it when we come to the functions in which you can show people what they’re going after anyway,” Busch said. “So I don’t know, it might be a little bit of a detriment where you’re giving people added motivation, right, but it’s nice when you’re able to pick up the accolades to celebrate those. And this is a celebration of having two rings, and we’d love to get more.”

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For the first time in 15 seasons, Busch will be seeking another Cup Series crown with a new team. His transition from Joe Gibbs Racing to Richard Childress Racing is already underway this offseason, including turning in his key at JGR and making adjustments to ensure that his driver’s seats and other interior safety and comfort equipment have the proper fit when his new No. 8 Chevrolets hit the track. Adding to the sense of closure: New Kyle Busch-RCR merch and a revamped car number design dropped Thursday and familiar sponsors for 2023 emerged.

Busch became emotional as he exited the No. 18 Toyota he’d become near-synonymous with for the last time in the Nov. 6 season finale at Phoenix Raceway, capping a saga of uncertainty that ended with a shift in his longtime allegiances to both team and manufacturer. But with that move, Busch says, comes the opportunity to re-establish his legacy of winning in new environs. He noted a pair of NFL legends who did the same, claiming Super Bowl crowns with different clubs.

“It’s obviously been a challenging … not just this year but the last little while, and so it’s kind of maybe a blessing in disguise, honestly, where it might just be a time for a fresh start, time for something new and something different,” Busch said. “So I’m kind of looking at it as the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning aspect where they left great teams, great organizations where they won championships, and they went on and were able to win championships somewhere else. So I’d like to think that I still have that opportunity to be able to do that with RCR.”

Busch will work with the No. 8 Chevy team’s incumbent crew chief, Randall Burnett, who helped guide Tyler Reddick to the first three victories of his Cup Series career in 2022. He was alongside Burnett and new teammate Austin Dillon last weekend for some extracurriculars at Circuit of The Americas, driving a No. 3 Chevy in the World Racing League endurance series.

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Busch will also make a shift in spotters next year. Tony Hirschman, his former eyes in the sky, will stay with Joe Gibbs Racing to partner with rookie Ty Gibbs, and Busch will pair up with Derek Kneeland, who will remain with the No. 8 crew.

Busch said during Champion’s Week in Nashville that he was aiming to schedule time with Kneeland before the season starts for orientation and to analyze race film. But there’s already a level of familiarity between driver and spotter since Kneeland worked for Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 team in the Truck Series last season, which included five spot starts by Busch himself.

“We worked together for some truck races this year, and I felt comfortable with the things that he was doing and saying,” Busch said. “I think that there’s going to be times, for sure, during the year where I might say, ‘OK, that’s too much,’ or, ‘Hey, I need a little bit more, keep talking to me,’ so you’ve just kind of got to give some of that feedback right there in the moment so you can kind of let that guy know and build that relationship of what you’re looking for and how he can help you better.”

Busch’s other major offseason changeover comes in his role as a team owner. Kyle Busch Motorsports announced on Nov. 4 that it would align with Chevrolet next season, fielding two full-time entries in the Craftsman Truck Series. Chase Purdy will drive the No. 4 Chevy in all 23 races, and Jack Wood will wheel the No. 51 Silverado in at least 10 races, sharing the driving duties with Busch and others.

Busch said his KBM crew “have really jumped up and gotten ahead of the game” in changing out the parts and pieces to make the manufacturer shift complete, estimating that just six trucks were left awaiting their swaps as of last week. What’s next is gaining a working knowledge of the new Chevrolet body’s wind-tunnel numbers, mapping the aerodynamics, and developing improvements with the Chevy simulation program.

“So now we have to start over again and doing that with a Chevy sim, so that’s just going to be a big learning curve,” Busch said. “That doesn’t happen overnight. I mean, that’s a 14-month process, so that’ll probably be our biggest thing, but at least we have a notebook to fall back on, and I feel like we’ll be fine to come out of the season strong.”