Tuesday, December 06, 2011

What's Next For Kurt Busch?

With Kurt Busch now officially out at Penske Racing, the speculation begins on where the embattled NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver might land next.

First, a couple of facts.

Despite the rosy verbiage of this week’s official announcement, Busch’s departure from Penske Racing was not by “mutual agreement.” When mutinous pirates walked the plank in days of yore, they did so willingly, but with the point of a saber in their back to prod them swiftly along. In Busch’s case, there was likely just one point of agreement. When Roger Penske told Busch it was time to pack his bags and go, Busch agreed to do so.

Penske Racing’s written statement – and the subsequent comments of team management – leave no doubt that the decision to part company with Busch came with the full approval of Shell/Pennzoil. In apparent contrast to the Mars Corporation’s continued tolerance of brother Kyle Busch’s incidents of poor behavior, sources say Shell/Pennzoil expressed their displeasure to Penske in no uncertain terms, and will play a leading role in the selection of his replacement.

As Busch begins his search for a new employer, he has one major selling point in his favor. As a former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, he holds a Past Champion’s provisional that makes him a guaranteed starter for any team that chooses to sign him. As attractive as that option may be, however, it does not change the fact that there are very few open Sprint Cup rides for the choosing. Championship-caliber rides are even fewer and farther between.

Penske Racing is off the table. Hendrick Motorsports is an unlikely option after struggling with – and eventually jettisoning – younger brother Kyle Busch for similar conduct a few years ago. Richard Childress recently scaled-back his Sprint Cup roster from four cars to three, and his relationship with the Busch Brothers can be summed up with the now-infamous words, “Boy, hold my watch.” Joe Gibbs Racing has recently weathered a public relations debacle of its own with Kyle Busch, and appears unlikely to roll the dice again with Kurt. There is no chance of a return to Roush Fenway Racing -- where Kurt remains persona non grata since a similarly ugly departure in 2005 – and he is a long shot to drive any Ford team that receives technical support from RFR. Team owner Jack Roush has been a frequent and outspoken critic of Busch since their split, and will likely not support any team that lists KuBu on its roster of drivers.

As a result, the list of likely candidates for Busch in 2012 consists of Ganassi Racing, Stewart Haas and Michael Waltrip; along with lesser lights like Tommy Baldwin Racing, Furniture Row and TRG Motorsports. Based on his longstanding and loudly voiced complaints with the competitiveness of his former Penske entries, it’s hard to imagine Busch driving for a midfield team next season, making the pickings even slimmer.

The good news is that Busch seems to understand the seriousness of his mistakes and the outrageousness of his conduct. His comments in the last 24 hours have been filled with words like “unprofessional” and “unacceptable,” and he has spoken openly of his need to step back, engage in some much-needed self-assessment and recapture the joy that first attracted him to the sport. Talk is cheap, however, and only time will tell whether Busch’s words result in an actual change in conduct.

Kurt Busch has a lot of work to do, both personally and professionally. Here’s hoping that this week’s events provide the incentive to make some meaningful changes, at last.


  1. freefromtheman12:07 PM

    Unfortunately I think the best thing for him would be to buy or start his own Nationwide team and rebuild his brand.

  2. My money is on Ganassi. Jamie better watch his back. Another interesting thought might be SHR, driving the car for the races Danica doesn't and using his champions provisional in a fourth car to get full season driver's points.

  3. It is no doubt that KuBu can drive(witness the Cup trophy on his mantle). So I've got to feel bad for Mr. Penske. He's lost a high caliber driver. But one of the best crew chiefs in the garage made up his mind to distance himself form KuBu weeks ago.

  4. Never thought about a 4th car at SHR but I had the exact same thought as you, Dag, in regards to him possibly filling out the remainder of races for Danica. However, who will sponsor that effort?

  5. Anonymous12:22 PM

    Kurt is in a tough spot. Needing to rebuild brand and also gain back trust and respect of fans and competitors alike. Not a short process. What he does is up to him. I don't believe a lot of people are looking at him. To much baggage right now.
    Second to Kurt. Hope that Kyle has his wake up call. Being sat down and seeing what his brother has gone through. I believe that Kyle can recover though. Kyle seems more sincere in his actions and his improvement this year (at least till late in the season) seems to show that he is trying. Let's hope that he can make the change.
    I for one think that only one Busch brother has a chance. Sorry Kurt it is not you.

  6. Anonymous12:25 PM

    Would SHR be out since addington just left penske because of him? Granted he wouldn't be kurta CC but still there is history.

  7. I wouldn't count on Kurt driving for SHR. He and Tony don't get along well.

  8. Anonymous12:30 PM

    Tony has made it clear he is not fond of the older Busch brother.

  9. Anonymous1:32 PM

    Perhaps Kyle will seat Kurt in his #51 truck and let him prove his mettle. Would either be a rousing success or dismal failure, but certainly a path to redemption for Kurt. And may result in a championship to boot!!

  10. Anonymous1:40 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. Anonymous2:25 PM

    We will not see Kurt in the Cup series ever again.

  12. Anonymous3:58 PM

    I think he will end up buying a team and do like Tony did,become car owner/driver.maybe becoming partners with Finch in the #51 car

  13. Scott Corle4:42 PM

    Roger Penske is a classy guy, thanks to him for not derailing champions week...

  14. Chris4:56 PM

    Yes, I have been a Kurt Busch fan since he took over for my favorite driver Rusty. Does that mean I've always been proud of Kurt ... No! But , with that said, times they have a changed! Yes Kurt has been abusive with his speech and verbal actions this is true. I can remember when pulling out a cigerette in victory lane was not only normal it was incouraged, today a driver would be fired for that alone! I remember the day when drivers bragged about taking miss Winston and a few others out on the town and, well fill in the blanks. I'm not excusing Kurt for his actions or questioning Penske or his sponsors, I'm simply pointing out the way things have changed, for the better, that's not my call. For all the Busch haters out there, God knows there's a plenty, the next time you throw a fit or give a one finger salute, because someone ticked you off or cut you off in traffic .... Remember ole Kurt!

  15. RJC15BOW5hr5:22 PM

    To anonymous (3:58pm) I actually said the same thing to my wife this morn.!!! This is the only chance he has to & try to be competitive and he is jealous of what Tony S. did... HOWEVER ,,, WHO would step up to sponsor him ??? This will be his biggest challenge (crew chief & sponsor)... I am NOT a fan of either of the busch "boys" And they need to Grow Up & appreciate what & who they have around them,,,That said,, I think its good for nascar fans to have there style in the races week in & week out.... I have my favorites & I have my Dislikes / BUT thats what Nascar & The Nascar World is all about.."Have At It Boys" is Awesome ,,, But u Have to be able to control yourself sometimes more then u want to... The PASSION Is Great !!!! Take a half a step back and refrain a bit ... This whole deal will make a statement to the rest of the world of motorsports "young & old" Appreciate what u have and the people that make it happen for u to do what u Love... I think , Kyle will benefit the most from all this... I agree , He made an effort to control the emotions this year , He fell 1 step behind at one point and Now he has to rebuild as well!!! They will be Good for the sport that we love to watch... Again, I am FAR Far away from being a fan of either one,,, BUT , I am a huge fan of NASCAR & Love to see the Passion,Excitement,Frustrations,Victories,Milestones,1st's,ect.ect.ect. I am the fan that takes 6mos. to pay for those tickets to go to races, I am the fan that depend on the "Media" to bring me the NEWS (in all aspects) Hey Drivers,, Don't disrespect our media , IT'S Not thier fault u are in the garage or u didn't finish well/// They are there to bring "Us the FANS" The News !!!!! NOW Grow Up & LET'S All Move On And Have A GREAT 2012!!!!

  16. Anonymous7:57 PM

    It's the same old, same old. He reads what his PR staff hands him. He doesn't mean or believe a word of that PR tripe he's parroting. He doesn't have a clue how to treat people with respect nor does he believe they deserve to be treated in a respectful manner. After all ... he's Kurt Busch and you better not forget it either.

  17. Anonymous5:27 AM

    NASCAR and it's sponsors continue to ignore real life and are trying to create a perfect sport while needing imperfect humans to participate for them. Sanding away the rough edges isn't going to make the sport more palatable to a younger audience, it just exposes the flaws in the concept. NASCAR will never compete on the National stage with the stick and ball sports because you can't create that perfect little world out of white bread and mayonnaise. You need a little mustard for flavor. And the Busch Brothers are the mustard.

  18. anonymous internet genius10:47 AM

    17 comments and only 2 mention kyle. you are getting better folks.

  19. Anonymous5:25 PM

    What he loss, he will never get back !! All by his own doing, no one to blame but himself.

    Ron Barcomb

  20. Anonymous5:59 PM

    I think Busch will end up driving the #71 for TRG.

  21. Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart on the same team? That seems like it would be a pretty toxic mix.