RACING

TRD’s Wilson on negotiations with Kyle Busch: “It’s not good enough…to be the best driver.”

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Toyota’s David Wilson had no update on Kyle Busch’s media contract at Daytona International Speedway, but the automaker remains committed to trying to keep Busch in the fold.

“We’re still in the mix, we’re still working with Kyle and our intent is still the same,” said Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development. “Kyle Busch is our 60 home run hitter, and we’d be silly not to risk everything to keep him in the family, and that’s what we continue to do.”

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With the departure of main sponsor Mars at the end of 2022, the difficulty in finding a new partner for Busch has some branches. Among these are the amount of sponsor dollars the race team is looking for and Busch’s reputation.

“We say every week: In this sport at the highest level, it’s not enough to be the best driver,” continued Wilson. “Kyle Busch is in the conversation for the greatest of all time. Again, he’s our 60 homer hitter and he’s breaking every record the sport has ever seen. It’s not enough in this sport. You need corporate America; you need sponsorship to sail the ship, and whether that’s a good thing or not… not for me to say, but it’s a fact.

“It was a difficult environment. Some of that is just organic to the current economy and inflation, recession, whatever you want to call it. Part of that is absolutely, again, the polarizing nature of some drivers, and they’re not a good fit for every sponsor. »

Wilson acknowledged that Toyota, as a manufacturer, has a role to play in Busch’s contract negotiations. However, Wilson clarified that Toyota does not own drivers or teams and respects their place in the garage.

“So within the reasonable limits of a manufacturer in sports, we’re doing what we can to try to keep Kyle in our family,” Wilson said. “It’s not just an attacking consideration – I don’t want to run against [an angry] Kyle Busch. And wherever it lands, it will do damage. But as I said before, it was a lot of heavy work and it hasn’t changed.

Toyota isn’t going to write a check to cover Busch’s salary. Although the manufacturer is one of the most involved in supporting race teams and driver development through Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series, it is not their responsibility to pay a driver – not even a pilot of the caliber of Busch.

“I see [those comments] all the time, and this goes back to my comment [about how] we have a role to play in this sport,” Wilson said. “Since we came here and started racing here…in 2007 in the Cup Series, we’ve respected this sport, and we’ve respected the position and the responsibility that we have in the sport, and that’s not not a responsibility in which we are puppeteers and again, our own drivers or racing teams.

“The racing teams – Joe Gibbs Racing – have a contract with the drivers. We have relationships with each of our drivers — it’s called a personal services agreement — and that’s because they’re all ambassadors for us. But it’s not our role as manufacturers to support. We just don’t do that. That’s not what we do.

Busch’s tone has gone from deflecting questions at Joe Gibbs while saying he wants to stay with his team, to acknowledging he’s talking to other organizations, and then saying last month he’ll make concessions on his next contract. The situation changes frequently as it drags on, and Wilson admitted it’s very dynamic.

“Every week, every couple of days brings a new twist, a new potential opportunity and we analyze them,” he said. “Hopefully one of those irons will catch, and hopefully one of those opportunities will arise. I have no doubt Kyle Busch will be driving a Cup car in the sport next year. The question is where and for whom?

Wilson said there was no set date when anything had to be finalized with Busch.

“I think it will eventually be self-determining, because wherever Kyle ends up, whoever Kyle ends up with, that entity will need time to cement that,” he said. “So I think it’s going to happen organically. I don’t see going far in the playoffs.

Ultimately, Wilson said, “I just want to see Kyle in a good place. Hopefully it’s with Toyota, but what’s most important is that he lands on his feet and that he and his family are well placed.”

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