What is the biggest factor that leads to an opportunity in the NASCAR Cup Series? According to two-time champion Kyle Busch, the short answer is money.
“This isn’t to be mean or rude or a bad word, but he needs 6 million bucks and he’ll be in a JGR Cup car next year,” Busch said while responding to a question specifically focused on John Hunter Nemechek’s future in the sport.
“It’s all he needs. It’s not a success game anymore. It’s a money game. So if he can find the cash, then there’ll be a seat for him. I’m pretty sure.”
As Busch continued to explain, there is not enough money in the sport right now that would give team owners the freedom to invest in talent. Instead, the drivers have to bring in millions of dollars of funding to make their racing dreams a reality.
This is something that Nemechek will have to worry about as he tries to work his way back up to the NASCAR Cup Series after winning seasons in both the Craftsman Truck Series and Xfinity Series.
A Different Reality Could Create Tougher Competition
As Busch has seen, there are countless drivers that have the talent to reach one of the national NASCAR series. He has competed against many of them in Super Late Model races over the years.
Many of these names, such as Bubba Pollard, don’t get the opportunity to drive in the Craftsman Truck Series, Xfinity Series, or Cup Series. They just don’t have the funding behind them to make this possible. The result, in Busch’s opinion, is that the level of competition may not be as high as it could be.
“Fortunately, Josh Berry has now ‘made it’ per se,” Busch said. “It’s guys like that that I got a chance to go race against and have some fun with and race against the best of the best across the country.
“But sometimes when you’re here in Cup or Xfinity or whatever, the talent isn’t quite as grand as maybe it could be. If you had all of those types of guys here, it would be a lot tougher.”
Busch Pointed Out 1 Unique Scenario
While the vast majority of drivers have to bring funding to the table to secure a ride in the NASCAR Cup Series, there is one that was previously in a different situation — Kyle Larson.
The California native made his return to the Cup Series in 2021 after serving a suspension in 2020. Rick Hendrick brought him to Hendrick Motorsports and put him in the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro.
HendrickCars.com took over the entry for the majority of the schedule while Freightliner, Valvoline, NationsGuard, Cincinnati Incorporated, and MetroTech rounded out the schedule.
Ultimately, the move paid off for Hendrick. Larson won 10 points-paying races, as well as the All-Star Race. He captured the regular-season championship and the Cup Series championship while paying off Hendrick’s decision to focus more on talent than money.
“These owners anymore, there’s not enough money in the sport that they’re making. Money that they’re willing to reinvest it into their talent pool, into their driver pool, and put it out there,” Busch said. “So I think Rick is probably the only one with Larson. Everybody else is all sponsorship driven.”