More driver changes coming at Joe Gibbs Racing?

After a chaotic silly season which resulted in Kyle Busch leaving for Richard Childress Racing, could Joe Gibbs Racing be set to see more change?

The most successful active driver/team partnership in the NASCAR Cup Series came to an end after the 2022 season, when two-time champion Kyle Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota for Richard Childress Racing and Chevrolet.

Busch had been with Joe Gibbs Racing for 15 seasons, and a contract extension was once seen as nothing more than a formality, even with longtime primary sponsor M&M’s having announced that they would not be back with the No. 18 team in 2023.

But as time went on, it became increasingly evident that a 16th season behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota was not a sure thing for the 37-year-old Las Vegas, Nevada native.

What was considered a promising sponsorship development ultimately fell through, and Busch began pursuing new opportunities.

He ultimately signed with Richard Childress Racing to replace Tyler Reddick behind the wheel of the No. 8 Chevrolet, and Joe Gibbs Racing later confirmed Ty Gibbs as Busch’s replacement.

However, Gibbs is set to drive the No. 54 Toyota as opposed to the No. 18 Toyota, keeping the number he used during his time in the Xfinity Series with his grandfather’s team. Since Joe Gibbs Racing entered the Cup Series in 1992, they have never not run at No. 18 Toyota.

While Gibbs replacing Busch is the only driver change which took place at Joe Gibbs Racing over the offseason, there could very well be more changes on the way at the sport’s top Toyota team in the near future.

Early in the 2022 season, there was speculation that Martin Truex Jr. could decide to retire after it ended, though he ultimately decided to return for another year.

However, he has not committed to anything for 2024, and when pressed about his plans for 2024 after deciding to return for 2023, he noted that he hadn’t made up his mind, as it had taken him six months just to decide on 2023 .

At 42 years of age, the Mayetta, New Jersey native could very well decide that it is time to move on following the 2023 season, which would leave Joe Gibbs Racing needing a replacement for him behind the wheel of the No. 19 Toyota in 2024 .

And that’s not the only issue with which Joe Gibbs Racing could be faced.

At this time last year, very few people would have taken seriously the suggestion that Busch could be competing for a new team in 2023. Yet due to the departure of M&M’s and the lack of a formal agreement with Oracle, that is exactly what is set to happen.

Could Denny Hamlin be facing a similar predicament?

Longtime sponsor FedEx does not have a deal to return to the No. 11 Toyota for the 2024 season, and Hamlin himself is only under contract through the 2023 campaign.

Even though he recently became a Cup Series team owner, forming 23XI Racing with Michael Jordan ahead of the 2021 season, the 42-year-old Chesterfield, Virginia native has been adamant that he wants to finish his career with Joe Gibbs’s organization — with FedEx on his car — and that he ultimately wants to retire on his own terms.

What if that situation plays out similar to Busch’s situation?

Aside from Ty Gibbs, the only driver Joe Gibbs Racing have locked up long-term is Christopher Bell, who was their lone representative in the 2022 Championship 4.

Bell reportedly signed an extension with the team prior to the 2022 season, and while the terms of that agreement have not been publicized, news of the deal ended speculation that the No. 20 Toyota was effectively a “revolving door” and that he was in line to be replaced.

But even with Bell’s situation seemingly under control, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding Joe Gibbs Racing’s future beyond the 2023 season. Will everything remain the same for another year, or will another veteran be on the move?

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