Cole Custer penalty undeserved; What’s next for Kurt Busch?; Toyota’s talent pipeline woes Featured

Posted On Wednesday, 12 October 2022 09:12 Written by
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Cole Custer and the #41 team have been hit with penalties for their actions on the last lap at the Roval on Sunday. Cole Custer and the #41 team have been hit with penalties for their actions on the last lap at the Roval on Sunday. File photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images


Teammates help each other out. 

It’s part of racing, and always has been.

When Jeff Gordon was trying to wrap up his first title back in the 1990s, Rick Hendrick would enter an extra car in the race just so it could drop out and guarantee Gordon another spot. When stages are about to end, drivers often don’t lap their teammates even if they are able to do so, out of respect for their overall team goals. Every team on the grid, from Hendrick to Gibbs to SHR and beyond, has told its drivers to support their teammates in one way or another, often explicitly on the radio. 

So the decision to punish Cole Custer and the 41 team for alleged improper action to help teammate Chase Briscoe at the end of the Roval race is quite dishonest in my view. This wasn’t a Clint Bowyer itchy arm situation and there was no blatant manipulation. Briscoe was going to dive bomb into that corner regardless of what Custer did, and likely make the pass anyway, so overanalyzing the 41 car’s actions is unnecessary. 

What’s most bothersome is the inconsistency. In recent years, Chase Elliott did a playoff favor for Kyle Larson by holding up Kevin Harvick, and Erik Jones was told explicitly to not pass teammate Denny Hamlin. But nobody was punished in those instances.

Let’s not get into the habit of over-policing, which is the complete opposite of “boys, have at it” and not the direction we need to go in as a sport.

Will Kurt Busch retire?

Rumors have it that Tyler Reddick will move to 23XI Racing in 2023, a year ahead of schedule. This makes sense, as Richard Childress likely never wanted three teams for 2023 and the cost of buying or leasing another charter that would have gone with it.

But what does this mean for Kurt Busch? Is his retirement announcement imminent? Or will he come back for either a full or partial schedule in a third 23XI Racing machine? My bet is a partial schedule, a sort of farewell tour, to give him his proper farewell but not have him out there for the full season after everything he’s been through.

However his time behind the wheel ends, Kurt’s had a storied career, full of extreme highs and extreme lows. Driving for a plethora of teams, he has earned the respect of his competitors and initially ruffling lots of feathers. 

From getting punched by Jimmy Spencer to being an elder statesman of the sport helping young drivers, it’s been quite the journey, and we’ll find out soon if that journey continues into 2023.

Toyota talent pipeline woes

The big loser in the sport the past few weeks has been team Toyota.

First, despite Joe Gibbs claiming he tried to hang on to Kyle Busch in the 18 car, Busch announced he will join team Chevy and Richard Childress Racing, replacing Tyler Reddick in the 8 car starting in 2023. Of course, Kyle’s truck team will also move to Chevy for 2023, another major blow for Toyota since Kyle helped groom lots of new talent for Toyota over the years.

On top of all that, Chandler Smith, a young man who is arguably one of the top talents in the Truck/Xfinity series, announced he was leaving the Toyota camp and joining Kaulig Racing and their Chevy lineup for 2023. That’s two major gains for Chevy and two major losses for Toyota. 

Looking at what remains for Toyota, there is promise but also concern. Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick will do well for 23XI, and Ty GIbbs (the likely new driver of the 18 car) and Christoipher Bell will lead the youth charge at Joe Gibbs Racing. But Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex are close to the end of their driving careers, and who will be the feeder teams to replace them when they leave JGR?

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu. AutoTechReviews can be found on Twitter at @AutoTechReview, and on Instagram @autotechreviews.

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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