10 December 2011

What is Next for Kurt Busch?

The NASCAR silly season has only been going on but there is a big-time driver aavailable, a former Champion and a six-time Chase participant. He also has a bit of an anger issue and thus may not be as heavily courted as a driver as his driving skills have shown.
Penske Racing cut ties with Kurt Busch on Monday, it was official a mutual decision but in all likelihood he got axed, after what has been a tumultuous at times partnership, culminating in Busch being caught on camera verbally berating ESPN report Dr. Jerry Punch at the season finale race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. So what is Busch's next move as he tries to learn to better compose himself and his emotions as well as finding fun in racing again?
Just looking at what he has accomplished in the sport, you would think he is a hot commodity. But his not so great reputation as well as a general lack of open rides have led to slim pickings. But he will be in a ride next season, his past champion's provisional is critical, he is on a redemption quest and he simply is too good of a driver to go away. Considering he still is relatively young, 33, he will get another shot. But it won't come with a Chase-level organization, at least not for now.
There are some lower-level organizations that I could see Busch landing at and they include Phoenix Racing, Front Row Motorsports, TRG Motorsports and FAS Lane Racing. These organizations have not been able to find consistent funding and while Busch may be toxic right now, smaller companies would be willing to roll the dice I believe.
Phoenix Racing had some solid runs this year with Landon Cassill running most of the season and were able to finish in 30th in owner points, keeping itself locked in for the first five races of 2011. Cassill is not under contract for 2012. They have had a lot of success on plate tracks and if they bring in Busch they could be a potential sleeper at Daytona come Speedweeks. Owner James Finch says he is interesting in Busch and will talk with him but he has had run-ins with drivers before.
Front Row Motorsports operated a three-car team last year and two of them finished in the top 35 in the owner points. All three of their drivers from 2011, David Gilliland, Travis Kvapil and J.J. Yeley, are not under contract for next year and they could use Busch's champion's provisional for their third car. This team does have the logos of Long John Silver's, Taco Bell and A&W on their hoods but those are not sponsorships but rather through owner Bob Jenkins's restaurant franchises as he is a restaurateur. But they do get assistance from Roush and Ford, whose prior relationship with Busch ended very poorly.
TRG Motorsports is a pretty new team to the Cup Series and ran with Andy Lally, who did technically win Rookie of the Year, for much of the year but the road ace did not have much success on the ovals and was released near the end of the season. They finished outside of the top 30 in owner points so Busch's provisional would be of benefit. They are also another Roush/Ford affiliated club but not as closely as Front Row is, which really isn't close at all to be honest.
FAS Lane Racing was a new team to the Cup Series this year and owned by former crew chief Frank Stoddard. They used a rag-tag group of drivers all year and were able to stay inside the top 35 all season.
Now would Busch really be willing to go to a lower level that would not be a consistent contender like the prior organizations he has raced for? I say yes, it's the only way he can reform himself and get back to the top from the bottom.

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