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Sports Kyle Busch open to racing "for under my market value" in '23

20:11  30 july  2022
20:11  30 july  2022 Source:   msn.com

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Kyle Busch started his Saturday by joining past winners at the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a class photo on the Yard of Bricks.

  Kyle Busch open to racing © Provided by The Canadian Press

He was seated next to Arie Luyendyk, in front of Marcus Ericsson, Alexander Rossi and Helio Castroneves — a combined eight Indy 500 titles flanking NASCAR's only active driver with multiple Cup championships.

And yet Busch still doesn't have a contract for next season. His longtime sponsor is pulling out of NASCAR at the end of the season, and if Joe Gibbs Racing doesn't find a deep-pocketed replacement for M&M’s and Mars Inc., Busch will have to find a job elsewhere.

Busch gets antsy for contract resolution with Gibbs, Toyota

  Busch gets antsy for contract resolution with Gibbs, Toyota LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Kyle Busch pulled a yellow M&M’s polo over another shirt before he walked onto the stage to celebrate o ne more victory as a team owner in the NASCAR Truck Series. He’s antsy for a fashion makeover -- in the form of new sponsor merchandise -- for 2023. Busch is down to his final months wearing the M&M’s gear until the shirt gets tossed aside like an old Snickers wrapper. The wait for a new deal with Joe Gibbs Racing dragged on into Pocono Raceway with the two-time Cup champion seemingly no closer to a contract resolution. M&M Mars, which has sponsored Busch since he joined the Gibbs organization in 2008, is out of NASCAR at the end of the season.

It's an unfathomable predicament for Busch, the 2015 and 2019 NASCAR champion and winner of 60 career Cup races, with all but four won since joining JGR in 2008. He wants to stay in the No. 18 Toyota, but the clock is ticking.

“It'd be like Dale Earnhardt in 1998, three or four years after winning his last championship, being on the free agency market and not having a ride. That just sounds crazy,” Busch said. “I don't know what to do, how to fix that.”

Despite his credentials, Busch knows he's going to have to take a pay cut. The motorsports business model relies on corporate funding, and the market is radically different than it was when he signed his first deal with Gibbs in 2007 and even when he signed his last extension in 2019.

“You talk about what you want, and I think you are insinuating that I'm asking for the sky on salary or something like that, and I've already admitted I'm willing to take concessions,” Busch said. "I feel like the market is different than what it was years ago, and I'm willing to race for under my market value.

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“You gotta have sponsorship in this sport to go forward. It's not as simple as being a basketball player and being Michael Jordan or LeBron James and being a really good player, and then the team losing a sponsor and then saying ‘OK, Michael, LeBron, we gotta let you go. We can’t afford you.'"

He acknowledged that the stress has made for “a lot of sleepless nights” as NASCAR heads into Sunday's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. NASCAR will race the road course for the second consecutive year; Busch finished 20th last year, but won back-to-back Brickyard 400s on the oval in 2015 and 2016.

Busch has one victory this season and is playoff eligible. But his current organization, JGB, was rocked when Denny Hamlin and Busch were stripped of their 1-2 finish Sunday at Pocono Raceway because their Toyotas failed inspection — an escalation because the series won’t tolerate any nonsense with its new Next Gen car.

NASCAR at Pocono results: Chase Elliott named winner after Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch disqualified

  NASCAR at Pocono results: Chase Elliott named winner after Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch disqualified NASCAR at Pocono results: Chase Elliott named winner after Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch disqualifiedIt appeared Denny Hamlin had been named the winner at Pocono for a record seventh time, with his Joe Gibbs teammate Kyle Busch right behind him. Two hours after the checkered flag had been waved and the celebrations had quieted down, NASCAR announced both Hamlin and Busch had failed post-race inspections, giving the victory to Elliott.

"It’s excessive for what it was, but I get the process for the car and making sure the example is out there,” Busch said of the suspension.

So typically bold and brash, Busch was more muted on that and almost all topics because he's clearly concerned about what's next in his racing career.

He said he's talking to teams all across the NASCAR garage and can't even keep all the conversations straight. He knows he has the skills to step away from full-time NASCAR racing and craft a schedule of bucket-list races across multiples series, but it's probably a last-ditch option.

Busch wants to keep his seat at Gibbs, end of story.

“My first goal is to be at Joe Gibbs Racing and be with Toyota and have nothing change,” Busch said. “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 continue to talk and evaluate each place and each situation and find something.”

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More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press

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