Kyle Bush seemed to be waiting for an opportunity.
Seated on stage due to his weekly media availability at Richmond Raceway, the two-time series champ heard a question about whether it was one of the most difficult years of his career to contemplate.
Many of the recent headlines around Busch have been about contract negotiations in progress with Joe Gibbs Racing, but there have also been questions about learning a new car and about a host of races that have gone anything but well for Team 18.
So, was this one of the most mentally challenging years for Bush?
He said, “Yes, sure.”
Then it happened.
“Please hold,” Bush said as he reached into his pocket and pulled out his iPhone. “I get my facts straight here.”
Bush already had the facts. It was not a web page of his results or race summaries that the team wrote at each stage after the race. They were in a state of prolonged meltdown according to the race that Bush typed into the notes app on his phone.
Well, let’s take some facts – performance – on top of optics – results, Bosch said before reading the list.
“Sonoma: Collectively, JGR — we are all grateful,” he said.
Bush finished 30th in Sonoma. Brother Kurt Bosch was Toyota’s top finisher at 18th.
“Nashville: We were P2, led the most laps, it was possible, we should have won the race except for a strategy call at the end,” Bush said. “Road America: Driver misses; pit road over wall too early; speeding penalty. Race went green all the way to the finish.
Atlanta: good car; He led from 19th to the top three in the opening round. We had a hiccup on a pit road we were involved in the following accident. New Hampshire: We flirted twice; We weren’t very good. Our teammates were a little better than us, obviously; He was still able to save the twelfth.”
Unbelievably nothing he crashed into and no one else in any of his laps. One of his teammates, Christopher Bell, won the race while another, Martin Truex Jr., drove 172 laps in the race.
“The Pocono: One of the top three cars of the day; he drove the most laps,” said Busch.
#18 drove 63 laps in the Pocono and crossed the finish line in second for teammate Denny Hamlin, but the Hamlin cars were disqualified after the race for duct tape on the front end.
“Then the Indy track on the road, we were probably the 10th to 12th car,” Bush said. “We put ourselves in the top 10, we just passed car #2 leading up to the last warning of the day and the second car ended up in second place, making our way through all the chaos at the end, and we didn’t. I think I finished 11th in it It was still able to come from 24 to 11 on the last reboot.”
In the last eight races – from Sonoma to Michigan – 11th in Indianapolis was Bosch’s best result. In six of those races, he placed 20th or worse.
“There’s a lot of bad luck,” Bush concluded. “So, if we can finish where we’ve been running, we don’t slouch. I feel like we’re still competitive.”
As for the contract, there’s no new update on what Busch will do in 2023, but he also noted that this isn’t the first time a new contract has to be worked on. That doesn’t make things any easier though, as they want to stay where he is, and Gibbs and Toyota want him to remain their driver.
“It’s just a matter of being able to put all the pieces in the right place,” Bush said. “It’s not quite as simple as a seven-year-old puzzle. It’s a 50-year-old puzzle with the amount of pieces and the time this thing took. We’re still working through it all.”