Joe Gibbs can’t help but chuckle in repeating a pitch to sell Kyle Busch as the real Hollywood story going into NASCAR’s championship round Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Forget a racing icon such as Jeff Gordon riding out on top, or Kevin Harvick repeating as champ, or Martin Truex Jr. beating the odds and winning the title with a one-car team.
Gibbs isn’t going to waver in his belief that the best script would be Busch winning his first championship. All of this would come in a season in which Busch missed the first 11 races after a scary wreck in the season-opening Xfinity Series race at Daytona. The crash left Busch with a broken right leg and multiple broken bones in his left foot.
If Busch rebounds with a championship, though, it would rank among the best sports stories for Gibbs, the three-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the Washington Redskins.
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“I haven’t really been a part of something like this,” Gibbs said during an appearance for Interstate Batteries on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. “That was a horrific wreck in Daytona. The best the doctor said he could come back was in 12 or 13 weeks, and Kyle came back in 11. Then he came back and won a road race in Sonoma [his fifth race back]. Kyle is just in a great place right now and he’s handled everything real well.”
Of course, Gibbs is feeling good about Busch and is hopeful to win his first Cup championship since 2005.
3 Championships won by Joe Gibbs Racing (2000, 2002, 2005)
But he can’t really think Busch is a better story than Gordon, can he?
“Everybody has a story,” Gibbs said, smiling. “Obviously, I think Harvick is probably the favorite as we go in, and I’d say the sentimental favorite is the 24 [Gordon].”
I’m telling everybody that Kyle would be the best story ... I’m trying to sell that to NASCAR and to everybody.
Gibbs paused and then laughed, saying: “But I’m hoping none of that works out. I’m telling everybody that Kyle would be the best story. He got hurt real bad early in the season, so we’re a better story. I’m trying to sell that to NASCAR and to everybody.”
Gibbs certainly has the Interstate Batteries crew on his side. On Friday, the Dallas-based company unveiled more than 60 Toyota Camrys wrapped in the Interstate Batteries green-and-white paint scheme that Busch runs occasionally.
The vehicles, driven by Interstate Batteries distributors and franchisees, are making their way across the country to promote different events in the “#DrivingForGood” campaign. More than 200 will be spread across the country and in Canada.
For Gibbs, it was a no-brainer to attend the launch. Joe Gibbs Racing got its start in 1992 by landing Interstate Batteries as its first sponsor, after Gibbs convinced chairman Norm Miller to sign on.
“I showed up on Norm’s doorstep 24 years ago with a piece of paper,” Gibbs said. “I didn’t have a driver. I didn’t have a race shop. I had nothing. And I tell Norm all the time, he’s the only guy crazy enough to come on board and get started.
“In those days, we started with 17 people and one car. Now we have a diversity program. We have three Xfinity Series cars, four Cup cars … we’re employing 600 people to work on cars. It’s awesome. And the biggest part of it is we started out with Norm and we’re still here with a great partnership.”
Now Gibbs is on the verge of winning his fourth Cup championship as a car owner. And it’s certainly hard to bet against Busch, considering he has posted three straight top-five runs. It might not be the fairy-tale ending Gordon would be, but it would be close.
Kyle would be a movie storyline come true if he was able to do this
TMS president Eddie Gossage on Busch winning the championship
“I think Kyle would be a movie storyline come true if he was able to do this,” TMS president Eddie Gossage said. “Kyle is definitely the most talented driver in the field.
“And everybody pulls for Joe because we all like him. We don’t think of him as a three-time Super Bowl champion coach in the sport. We think of him as the head of JGR. He’s a racer and he’s respected because of that.”