What the drivers said in the Phoenix Cup race – NBC Sports

Avondale, Arizona – On the toughest day of his toughest season in NASCARKyle Bush suffered several emotionally painful goodbyes on Sunday to Joe Gibbs Racing, including one that was cruelly unexpected.

Among the toughest farewells was when Bosch approached the yellow #18 Toyota he would drive for the last time in the familiar M&Ms/Mars that became his signature over the course of 15 seasons.

“I couldn’t even look at my car at first because it was the last time I’d see it,” Bush said as he choked after finishing seventh at the Phoenix Raceway. “It’s…it’s tough, man. It’s not easy. I just wish it wasn’t what it was or what it is, but I’m going to miss so many fun people we’ve spent so much time with over the years. Just looking forward to new adventures.”

Two-time Cup Series champion and the rest of the Joe Gibbs Racing team were ready to put Phoenix in the post-race rear-view mirror amidst a heartbreak on Sunday.

Less than 45 minutes before the race, the team announced that Coe Gibbs, JGR’s vice president and chief operating officer, had died in his sleep. Team patriarch Joe Gibbs’ son celebrated the Xfinity Championship by his son, Ty, several hours ago.

Bush got the news on Sunday morning right after his hospitality tours. Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota officials then held a meeting with the four crew chiefs and drivers, but Bosch said skipping the race was never considered.

“It’s not in our DNA,” he said. “I think everyone kind of always says that. If it was someone in my family, I would probably run today because that’s all we know. That’s what we’ve grown up doing for life. And so I don’t think that was a question we didn’t ask today.”

Busch was Gibbs’ top performing driver and finished appropriately ahead of Denny Hamlin, who gave Busch a quick hug on the starting grid.

said Busch, who joined the team in 2008 two years after Hamlin climbed to a trophy with Gibbs’ No. 11. “I hope we will have the opportunity to race each other at least as we did as teammates.

“He’s really close to family. He’s been there from the start. So we were emotional anyway in the beginning. We both had our reasons.”

Despite all the emotions, Bush rebounded from one of the worst races of his Gibbs career (he finished six laps on 29The tenth Because it was too slow on October 30th at Martinsville Speedway).

“It’s probably just adrenaline and focus and all that stuff,” he said about how to manage Sunday. “Once you put on a helmet you have enough of your worries and everything else. It’s no different than anything from all the experiences I’ve had this year. It’s clear today was the worst of it all. And the hardest of everything.

“I just gave him everything I had, and that’s all we have. I hope he’s better. I wish he was in the top five. The three places. Run a little better. But I’ll feel good about being the best Gibbs today.”

It will also take fond memories of Coe, who Bush said “was a lot like me.” Coy Gibbs has moved into a management position at JGR in recent years since leaving his older brother, JD, as team boss after suffering from a degenerative neurological condition that preceded his death in 2019.

“Koi didn’t take any nonsense and told everyone the way it was and straight in their face,” Bush said. “I loved Koe for that and for his persistence. He played a huge part in filling his brother’s shoes and maybe a bit more on the competitive side of the business side in that regard, but he has done nothing but try to push us all to go ahead and win races and be competitive and be strong and all that.

“Honestly this is what I remember the most about him. But the majority of my thoughts and prayers are with Joe and family. Everyone else. Heather, Melissa, all of them.”

Although he will leave with strong ties (Bush gave all of his cast members and hugs before speaking to reporters), his final season with Gibbs was largely forgotten.

14 years oldThe tenth in the points standings (worst since his rookie season in 2005 with Hendrick Motorsports) by scoring eight firsts.

Bosch said the slide started with the 2020 season, which ended with a split from Adam Stevens (the crew chief for his championships in 2015 and 19).

“Since breaking up with Adam, it hasn’t been the same anymore,” Bush said. “We were Jimmy and Chad. We had that ability. Tried to shape that again with a new group, and it was never the same, but we did. We won some races. We had legit shots to win a hell of a lot more races than we got this year. But With this new car, man, you have to be on top of it all the time.”

For the next generation’s second season, Busch will start all over again in Richard Childress Racing’s #8 Chevrolet.

Although his official start date won’t be until January 2023 (due to contractual commitments to JGR and Toyota that will tie him up until December and the NASCAR Awards), Bosch said he’s “really started a bit” at RCR (including some visits to the team shop) .

He’s been talking and writing with future colleague Austin Dillon about his simulation business and hunting licenses. Bush even dropped a devastating RCR sponsor reference when asked how it would reflect on the flight back to North Carolina (“I’ll probably take some 3Chi since the season is over and not think of the way home”).

But the gloom over Sunday’s race was a reminder of how difficult the season has been.

“It should turn around and get easier at some point,” said Bush, who has his wife, Samantha. Encapsulating the tumultuous weekend in a social media post on a late Sunday night. “I don’t know if that’s tomorrow or when that will be. We’re still waiting for the banquet and some other things with the family and all that.”

“But that makes it more difficult.”

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