Denny Hamlin, the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota Camry and Kyle Busch’s teammate, recently indicated that there’s a possibility that Busch might not be racing in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2023.
Busch recently spoke with USA Today about his situation explaining that the loss of his primary sponsor, Mars Wrigley, has put his future at Joe Gibbs Racing and NASCAR in turmoil.
“In other sports, a team doesn’t lose a sponsor and then have to give up its top talent,” Busch detailed. “Definitely, the business model can stand some help. And I know there are some team owners who have come into our sport recently, and they’re really fighting for that, trying to help that model be better.”
“Obviously it’s tough to find that unicorn style of replacement sponsor — someone who spends the $15-to-$25 million in our sport in just a 12-month period,” he said.
Busch also told NASCAR.com that he wants to stay with Joe Gibbs Racing and is willing to make concessions to make it happen.
“I feel as though I’ve said and I’ll continue to say my first goal is to stay at Joe Gibbs Racing,” he said. “But if the musical chairs music stops, and I’m still standing and I don’t have a seat, I’m screwed. So I have to make sure that I continue to talk and evaluate each place and each situation to find something.”
He would later reiterate, “Still my first option, my first goal, my first set is to be at Joe Gibbs Racing and stay with Toyota and have nothing change. But that unicorn hasn’t fallen out of the sky for 20 million bucks or whatever it is, and I don’t think it needs to be that number because obviously, there’s a number in that that then pays a driver and I’ve already said that I’m willing to take concessions and race for under my market value and go forward and being able to stay in the seat that I’ve made home for the last 15 years.”
Hamlin would share his thoughts on Kyle Busch’s dilemma during a recent appearance on the Door Bumper Clear podcast
First Hamlin, who is also co-owner of 23XI Racing, explained, “Think about it from the team’s economical standpoint. Your team gets paid what you win on the racetrack and what your historical value is plus the fixed fee. The difference between first and last is about $6 million.”
“So that means if I had the worst driver in the field to finish dead last every week, I’m gonna get paid ‘X,'” Hamlin elaborated. “And If I have the best driver that that wins every race and the championship and it’s number one ranked charter, I get paid ‘Y.’ And the difference between that is only $6 million.”
He continued, “So that essentially is what you would consider what you should pay the best. Now, you can add sponsorship to that.”
“So now let’s just say you have $10 million in sponsorship. If that sponsorship is linked to the driver then a driver deserves part of that deal. What is the proper percentage? Is it 20%, 30%, 40%? What is it? Add that to the delta that you are talking about, that probably is fair market value,” he detailed.
Hamlin then asserted, “We have been very fortunate to be in the sport. I thank my lucky stars every day that I came in when I did because it was after the HANS device was brought into the sport, the safety was such a big factor, and the money was really, really big.”
“We lived in a world where sponsorships were paying tens of millions,” he continued. “We’ve seen documented on Twitter about the M&Ms deal, or it was there close to it.”
“When you think about what the height of driver salaries were, go back in Forbes for the last five years and they nail it pretty good,” Hamlin said. “They pretty much got it. I don’t know whether they’re getting our tax returns or what they’re getting, but — I mean they nail it.”
“Unfortunately, the teams aren’t getting those type of sponsorship dollars anymore and performance on the track, it’s jut part of the equation that equals fair market value,” he relayed.
“And so, yeah, I think that Kyle has seen that there’s a shift and he has to take some concessions,” Hamlin noted. “It stinks I wish this wasn’t the case. I think we saw the thing with LeBron — I’m not saying Kyle’s LeBron by any means — but if the Lakers lose a sponsor, they still sign LeBron. It doesn’t matter about that. That’s the only difference in their model and our model is that when you make it sponsorship dependent then these type of things happen.”
“And you have a risk, you’re one of the most popular and polarizing drivers not racing in 2023. That’s a possibility,” Hamlin concluded.
What do you make of Hamlin’s comments? Do you think Busch will get a NASCAR Cup ride for 2023? Will he return to Joe Gibbs Racing or go elsewhere?