Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Joe Gibbs Racing finally confirmed the “worst kept secret” of silly season regarding the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series driver lineup.
With Kyle Busch losing longtime primary sponsor MM’s and leaving Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota for Richard Childress Racing and Chevrolet following the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season, his replacement seemed quite obvious.
Ty Gibbs, the grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs, won the Xfinity Series championship in his first full season in the series in 2022, and he also made 15 Cup Series starts for the Joe Gibbs Racing-affiliated 23XI Racing as the replacement for the injured Kurt Busch.
It was such a poorly kept secret that Gibbs replacing Kyle Busch was even matter-of-factly stated during the broadcast of the Cup Series season finale at Phoenix Raceway.
Even though the initial plan was for Gibbs to run two full seasons in the Xfinity Series before a full-time promotion to the Cup Series (he ran 18 of 33 races on the 2021 schedule), Joe Gibbs Racing formally confirmed that the 20-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina is set for a promotion in 2023.
The announcement solidifies the Toyota powerhouse’s four-car lineup for next year.
Gibbs’ replacement of Busch is the only change, as Denny Hamlin is set to return to the #11 Toyota, Martin Truex Jr. is set to return to the #19 Toyota, and Christopher Bell is set to return to the #20 Toyota.
Interestingly, Joe Gibbs Racing opted to renumber the #18 Toyota, which had been driven by Busch for the last 15 seasons, to the #54 Toyota. Gibbs used the number 54 for 50 of his 51 Xfinity Series races, winning 11 times in a season and a half.
The Cup Series hasn’t been without a #18 car since 1991, as Joe Gibbs Racing have used the number 18 every year since making their series debut in the 1992 season.
Joe Gibbs Racing have not yet announced the driver lineup for their Xfinity Series team, and Gibbs isn’t the only driver leaving. Brandon Jones, the team’s other full-time driver, is moving to JR Motorsports for the 2023 season, leaving two seats available.