Kurt Busch in Trouble Again? Say it Isn’t so!

With domestic violence heavily in the mainstream news, allegations against Kurt Busch could be damaging.

With domestic violence heavily in the mainstream news, allegations against Kurt Busch could be damaging.

Kurt Busch picked the wrong time to be in the news.

To be clear, the allegations that Busch assaulted his ex-girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, are simply that: allegations. Nor is this an attempt to fall into the easy trap of trying and sentencing Busch in the court of public opinion. Busch deserves the benefit of the doubt only (and ONLY) because here in the USA, a suspect is innocent until proven guilty, and until the Dover, DE police investigating these allegations decide otherwise, charges have not been filed.

But, this is Kurt Busch we’re talking about here. The same Kurt Busch who showed his butt (literally) to Jimmy Spencer (I bet Jimmy didn’t forget), won a championship for Jack Roush, got fired a season later (“We’re no longer Kurt Busch’s apologists”), seemed to get his head on straight piloting the 2 car for Penske only to be shown the door when video surfaced of Kurt going postal on Dr. Jerry Punch. So even though he deserves the same assumption of innocence afforded to all suspects, there is plenty to judge his character by in the court of public opinion, and the verdict is in: Kurt Busch has shown he can be a jerk. That’s not a crime.

I had thought that, though undeserved, a chance to drive with Stewart Haas would be an excellent opportunity to prove to pretty much everyone in the garage, the media and the grandstands that he was a changed man. Kurt could show friends and rivals alike through his actions that he was mature enough to recognize his personality flaws, or anger management issues, or whatever explains his arbitrary narcissistic and selfish behavior.

Better days with ex-girlfriend Patricia Briscoll.

Better days with ex-girlfriend Patricia Briscoll.

When he was asked to leave Penske, I thought for sure he would be an anathema to the top tier teams in Cup, and he would spend the rest of his career with a second-rate team, and only then because he comes with a Past Champion’s provisional. Think about that for a second – Kurt Busch was the medicine that would heal your wounds, replacing them with cancerous blood. So when SHR came calling, I was mildly optimistic that at the very least, Kurt could keep himself under control and display even a modicum of maturity.

But then Kurt Busch happened.

Regardless of whether charges will be filed or not, there is already enough attention for both Stewart Haas and NASCAR issue statements separately. In other words, because of Kurt Busch’s track record, both his employer and the sanctioning body of the sport are already posturing themselves for swift damage control.

Let’s get this out of the way: The timing is horrible. The timing is NEVER right for domestic assault. If what he’s accused of is even half-true, his behavior is disgusting and inexcusable.

With the microscope on the NFL and their handling of the bungled circus that is Ray Rice, all of the professional sports world is very image conscious right now. NASCAR loves their Rule 12-4-A (Actions detrimental to stock car racing) to keep their drivers in line when they get too big for themselves, has technically never had to impose penalties to drivers for behavior away from the track (There are exceptions for drug use, but arguably that’s a directly related to on-track behavior due to safety concerns), instead leaving those types of matters for the teams themselves to handle.  

But now, NASCAR will have no choice but to respond, because the public, especially those who don’t follow sports in particular is tired of hearing about troubled athletes who are unable to keep their hands to themselves.

They will wonder aloud why this is suddenly happening across the board and why something hasn’t been done about it already. A few more might wonder quietly whether or not this is behavior that has been tolerated up to this point. When people question the sport, they question the brand; when they question the brand they question the sponsors, which hurts the bottom line.

To be clear, NASCAR does not like their bottom line intruded upon.

No, this isn’t all about money or sponsorship dollars.

NASCAR has arguably done a far better job than other leagues in setting expectations of their participants’ behavior both on and off the track. No, they haven’t always got it right, but they’ve been proactive and willing to listen to teams, individuals, fans and sponsors with positive results for the most part

This is a scenario that they’ve surely been glad to avoid so far, which is why this is such a big deal for the sport: NASCAR has been thrust in the spotlight, where any decision they make will instantly be tried in the same court of public opinion, and they don’t have the luxury of getting a do-over like Roger Goodell did. They have to get it right the first time, with swift and decisive action. They absolutely have to show the rest of the sports world how it’s SUPPOSED to be handled.

As to what the outcome will be, only time will tell. However, now is not a good time to be called Kurt Busch.

Kurt Busch Walks Into A New Spotlight

Kurt Busch came to the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup race from Indianapolis on the day of the event. He finished sixth in the Indianapolis 500.

Kurt Busch came to the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup race from Indianapolis on the day of the event. He finished sixth in the Indianapolis 500.

Let’s face it, sometimes it is easy to dislike Kurt Busch.

Throughout his somewhat controversial career, he’s been arrogant, volatile, rude, disrespectful, hot-tempered and more (actually, I’ve run out of words).

But then you probably know all of that.

At the same time, he’s a tremendously talented race driver with 24 career NASCAR Sprint Cup victories and a championship in 2004.

You probably knew that, too.

In spite of what Busch is, or may have been, I’m convinced he has stepped into a new light.

He has earned respect. He has gained a new appreciation from many fans and media members.

On May 25 Busch became the fourth driver to attempt what’s called the “double double.” He was going to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and then make the hectic trip South to race in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the longest race in NASCAR.

If Busch competed both races, he will have run 1,100 miles in one day.

It’s been achieved. In 2001 Tony Stewart completed both races and to this day holds the best record for 1,100 miles in a single day.

He was sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte.

Busch was the first driver since Stewart to attempt the feat.

At Indy it appeared Busch had learned his lessons well.

Although he's had a tough year in NASCAR with Stewart-Haas Racing, Busch won at Martinsvile to enhance his chances for the Chase.

Although he’s had a tough year in NASCAR with Stewart-Haas Racing, Busch won at Martinsvile to enhance his chances for the Chase.

He finished a solid sixth in a Dallara Honda for Andretti Autosport. He earned a cool $423,889.“It was a challenge I put forth for myself,” Busch said. “I enjoyed it. I soaked it all in up North.

“I loved racing up in Indy in front of all the Indiana natives and the Hoosiers.

They love their speedway up there. That speedway loves them.

That’s what I really saw out of that track. There was a grand stage to stand on and represent NASCAR.

We brought her home in sixth place. I didn’t think I had anything for those top five guys.

They were racing hard. And those were the top five in that series. They’re strong. They’re tough.”

On his flight to Charlotte reports were Busch took an IV and tried to nap.

When he stepped out of the helicopter that took him to the track, Busch received a warm welcome from the grandstands.

No doubt many fans knew what he had accomplished at Indy.

The 600 did not go well for Busch. Driving his Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, he fell out of the race due to engine failure after 271 laps. He finished 40th.

What was yet another misfortune for SHR, which has struggled this season, meant disappointment for Busch. He completed 906.5 of 1,110 miles.

“We clawed our way up there and caught a lucky break with one of the yellows,” Busch said. “We worked on the car and I thought we were actually, you know, right in the mix.

“Those top 15 guys seemed to separate themselves.

We were going to start cracking on the top 10 if we could get one more adjustment done to the car.

“And then we had a problem on pit road. A car came at me perpendicular on pit road and it broke the left rear shock. And so we were hanging on.

“We were going to muscle it out. And then it’s like the car just swallowed three cylinders all at once. So, the engine let go. Those things happen in motorsports.”

Now there might have been a time when Busch would have expressed himself, shall we say, a bit more “forcefully.”

But not this time. It seemed he knew that, despite the Charlotte disappointment, he had accomplished a lot. He may well have had a feeling of self-satisfaction. – and deservedly so.

“I was hoping to do 1,100 miles today,” Busch said. “I can’t let what happened here dampen the mood on what happened up in Indianapolis.

“But it’s not just one individual. It takes a team. Andretti Autosport guys put me in a good car. Stewart-Haas gives me a great car every week.

We just had a monkey on our back in running NASCAR this year. “That kind of motor failure symbolizes some of the struggles we’ve had.”

At Charlotte, respect for Busch permeated the garage area and was expressed by many competitors.

It was the same for Stewart, John Andretti and Robby Gordon, the three who took on the challenge ahead of Busch.

And, importantly, just like them Busch earned it.

“Overall, I can stand here with a smile knowing I gave it my all for six months trying to get to this point,” Busch said.“I’d love to do it again.

“And at the same time, you’ve got to do it with quality teams. The teams really can make the big difference in all of this.

And I have to thank Andretti and I have to thank Stewart-Haas.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can Kurt Busch Actually Shine at the Indy 500?

If he can keep his wits about him with a hungry field of challengers, Kurt Busch could do well on May 25th.

Many drivers in the past, the distant past, had the ability to switch disciplines at will. A.J. Foyt may be the most successful among these racing titans. However, in the modern age we’ve all seen evidence that moving between open wheel and NASCAR just isn’t realistic.

Either you are totally dedicated to one form or the other. Montoya comes to mind as a great talent at driving, but choosing the right type of driving has been difficult for him. Winning in IndyCar, NASAR and Formula One naturally would make him special, but not great.

On May 25th, Kurt Busch is going to attempt to run the Indy 500 as well as the Coca-Cola 600 this year. Is this a wise move given the delicate nature of the specialized driving style in IndyCar? Can he rely on the engineers to set up a car where even the tiniest of changes make a huge difference at 230 MPH?

It’s a great thing for both NASCAR and IndyCar in terms of promotion, particularly for IndyCar who desperately need the audience to see what a great product they have. NASCAR fans who wouldn’t normally tune in to IndyCar will, if for no other reason than to see what Busch can do.

A little background. A number of years ago my cousin, Bobby Rahal, allowed Kurt Busch to do a few laps at Sebring in one of his IndyCars (In CART configuration). The instructors at the track all ran to the hill to take bets on how quickly he would spin the car.

After 18 laps he did finally spin the car, but no one was concentrating on the bet, but rather the fact that Busch had come very close to matching the regular drivers time on a road course in only 18 laps. He was impressive and they were impressed. I don’t recall if any money changed hands.

But that was a long, long time ago. No, you don’t forget how to drive but you do become conditioned to drive a certain way after all those years and it’s difficult not to default to your training. Like shooting guns.

There’s no doubt that Busch has the talent, and it is on an oval, but a very high speed oval. I’m sure that if the car were set up with maximum downforce, Busch would have no trouble, but they aren’t at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They’re trimmed out as much as possible in order to maintain speed and momentum.

Could this play into Busch’s hands, after all, the Sprint Cup cars are forever searching for downforce and grip. The IndyCars have the grip but when you are faced with keeping your right foot matted to the floor entering turn one, that grip becomes awfully elusive.

One of racing’s great renaissance drivers, A. J. Foyt.

Over 500 miles of very high g-forces, pit stops and cautions, Busch is going to be mentally worn out. Which is not to say he can’t handle it, but any lapse of concentration in these cars at these speeds with other cars around you can drain you both physically and mentally.

Busch will attach himself to every IndyCar driver that comes within two feet of him like a garage lamprey.

Make no mistake, Kurt Busch is one very talented driver, but going from NASCAR to IndyCar, IndyCar to NASCAR or even Formula One to IndyCar isn’t what it used to be. These cars and the way they race are worlds apart.

Having said that, Kurt Busch has a chance to really show his versatility. Can he win the Indy 500? No. An astroid hitting the earth on May 25th are probably a better bet. But if he can keep a steady mind, listen to the engineers and emulate his team mates, he may very well finish in the top ten.

It’s the Indy 500, you never know.

 

 

Fate Kind To Stewart, Not to Harvick or Kurt Busch

Tony Stewart rallied from a 37th-place starting position to earn a fourth place at Bristol, his first top-five finish of the year and one he hopes will start a comeback.

As you know, when it comes to competition, racing can be downright fickle.

In one race a driver performs very well and he’s feeling on top of the world. And then, it’s very possible that in the next race his performance is out to lunch and he’s down in the dumps.

Or he could be riding a hot streak only to see it chilled with a poor performance or a stroke of bad luck. And then it could be just the opposite.

A driver is on the path of mediocrity that comes to an end with a good finish.

It happens all the time.

For a few drivers it happened in the Food City 500 at Bristol, the fourth race of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

Tony Stewart had been mired in a slump since Daytona. He hadn’t had a finish in the top 10, much less the top five. He found himself mired in the bottom 20 in the point standings.

It was pretty much the same for his Stewart Haas Racing team. Danica Patrick, plagued by accidents, was not even in the top 30 in points.

Only newcomer Kevin Harvick basked in the spotlight. He won the second race of the year, at Phoenix and found his way into the top 15 in points – where he needed to be because only the top 16 in the standings who have won races makes the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

For SHR, Bristol was fickle. Two drivers were up, two were down.

For Stewart, the race was a godsend. Didn’t look that way at first when her qualified 37thon owner points.

Danica Patrick avoided some problems at Bristol and went on to finish 18th, easily her best finish of the season and one which boosted her five positions in the point standings.

But during the grueling race, delayed for several hours by rains, Stewart doggedly hung in to finish fourth – his first and only top-five run of the year.

It was a tonic. It lifted Stewart out of mediocrity and jolted him upward – for the first time this season – four positions in the standings. He’s now 23rd.

Not where he wants to be, but for now, he’ll take anything he can get.

“It was great,” Stewart said. “To start 37th and end up fourth today, I’m pretty excited about that.

“I’m really excited for everybody on the team. Everybody just worked hard all weekend. We had a long way to go from Friday, when we weren’t very good and every day we just got better and better. So, I’m really proud of this team.”

Stewart knows any “comeback” hasn’t really happened yet. But for it to do so, the time had come to make some progress.

“It’s a step in the right direction for sure,” he said.  “This is a big one.  If you come out of this place with a top-five you’ve had a good day.

“Track position was big like it always is here.  We were pretty strong at the end we just couldn’t run those guys down in front of us. Carl Edwards was obviously really strong at the end but I am happy with the day that we had.”

Teammates Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick were not happy after Bristol. Busch finished 35th and Harvick 39th, his worst performance of the season.

Busch is 31st in points and Harvick fell from 14th to 21st. He’s been unable to finish among the top 10 three of four races this year – but, of course, he has that Daytona victory.

Neither Busch nor Harvick can be blamed for their performances at Bristol. They were victims of mechanical misfortune.

For SHR’s Danica Patrick, fate decided to be kind. She wrecked in practice and started the race in 36th position because of owner points.

However, she avoided potential accidents and persevered for an 18th place finish, easily her best showing of the year.

“We had to go to a back-up car just four laps into practice, so I appreciate the effort of the guys,” Patrick said. “It was a tough weekend, so to come out of here with 18th, I’ll take it.

“It was an eventful night. Cole Whitt wasn’t clear and got into us and so we had some damage.

“Then I lost 1st and 2nd gear and then finally 3rd gear, so the last 100 or 200 laps I only had fourth gear. That’s why I hit Clint (Bowyer) in the pits. I am sorry about that.”

Despite her problems, Patrick advanced five spots in points to 28th place, up from 33rd.

Want more fickle?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was bidding to become only the second driver with four consecutive first-or-second place finishes. Richard Petty did it in 1974.

But tire and handling issues thwarted him. He drifted to 33rd place before his team lifted the hood on his Chevrolet. He finished 24th, four laps down to winner Edwards.

Earnhardt Jr. dropped from first to second in points, 10 behind new leader Brad Keselowski.

But he remains confident. He has been virtually assured of a place in the Chase.

“As long as they’re telling the truth about if you win, you’re in, you ain’t worried about it,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “You ain’t worried about it – you either win, or you don’t win.

“Second through last doesn’t really matter. If you don’t win, you just go home and try again.”

 

 

 

 

Victory In Exciting Daytona Nationwide Race Is Redemption For Kurt Busch

The Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway was exciting and had its share of wrecks due to pack racing. Kurt Bush (No. 1) escaped this one and others to win the race.

(Editor’s Note: Mark DeCotis is a veteran journalist who spent 37 years in the newspaper business before beginning a second career combining leisure and earning a living.

He covered 26 Daytona 500s, numerous Pepsi/Coke Zero 400s, Busch/Nationwide, Trucks, more than a few Rolex 24s at Daytona, season finales at Homestead, Kevin Harvick’s emotional first win at Atlanta, IndyCar, sports car, NHRA, motorcycle, ATV and power boat racing.

His favorite race car driver interviews of all time were with 15-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force).

 

DAYTONA BEACH. Fla. – After more than half the field wrecked in six separate incidents in Friday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona, Kurt Busch played the role of survivor and won the Subway Jalapeno 250 in overtime.

He managed to get through two big wrecks including the startling one in which pre-race favorite Danica Patrick walloped the inside retaining wall off Turn 2 with such ferocity that it drove the steering column in her JR Motorsports Chevy nearly to the roof.

The lap 83 wreck was unnervingly similar to the one Patrick was involved in coming off Turn 2 during practice for February’s Daytona 500. Fortunately for her, her team and the sport she walked away.

When the smoke and sparks finally dissipated Busch found himself in victory lane in a car damaged in one of the earlier wrecks. His smoky burnout capped a wild and entertaining evening which at times saw the field running four-wide on Daytona’s narrow racing surface and, not surprisingly, ended in a wreck involving Austin Dillon and others as the field came to the checkered flag.

At least 25 of the 43 cars were damaged in wrecks and24 of the 101 laps were run under caution. But the race did set a track record for lead changes with 42 involving 16 drivers.

Danica Patrick qualified and ran well in the race and might have had an excellent shot at victory had not she been involved in one of the race's multi-car crashes.

Unfortunately the attendance was sparse by Daytona standards. And those who stayed home missed a show that left Kurt Busch emotionally spent in victory lane – and his brother Kyle steaming in his wrecked car that he skidded to a stop just yards away while heading the wrong way on pit road following the finish.

If NASCAR was planning to penalize the sport’s premier pouter for the bonehead move was not immediately determined.

All that didn’t faze Kurt Busch.

“We just won at Daytona,” he exulted. “I’m hoarse because I’ve been screaming so loud. This is awesome.”

The victory marks a step toward redemption for the volatile Busch. He was suspended from his James Finch-owned ride in the Sprint Cup Series in June after a run-in with a reporter that followed his being put on probation after a run in with driver Ryan Newman and Newman’s team at Darlington.

He was retained after the Finch team voted to keep him in the driver’s seat and hopefully the victory was his first payment on the debt he owes.

“I’ve got only a couple of things to give and that’s heart and that’s passion,” Busch said.

Surely Finch will accept his driver’s effort and the first-place check that can only help his underfunded and understaffed operation.

While the riveting action up front kept the crowd on its feet, Dillon came from the back after his Richard Childress Racing Chevy failed post-qualifying inspection that negated his pole-winning run.

He eventually led and finished fourth sliding sideways across the finish line. It continued a wild two weeks that saw he and his team penalized for a failing post-race inspection following his first career victory at Kentucky.

“I never got really worried about getting to the front, I thought we had a car capable of getting there,” Dillon said.

As for the penalties: “We made another mistake that’s two in a row,” Dillon said. “My grandfather (Childress) is upset with the guys. It’s like ‘Man, we’ve got to stop doing that. We’ve got to be on our game.’ ”

Kurt Busch was surely on his game in winning for the fifth time in 23 career Nationwide starts and for the second time this season, the first for Finch. He won at Richmond in a Kyle Busch Motorsports car.

“It means more to me but it means more to these guys,” Busch said of his team. “I’m happy we were able to deliver. I couldn’t be more proud of this team effort tonight.

“We didn’t give up. It’s not vindication. You want to win for James Finch.”

As for his up and down career that has seen him lose Cup rides at Roush Racing and Penske Racing due to his mercurial nature, and whether the victory could put him on the right path, Busch maintained Friday night was not about him.

“When you win for James Finch in just a few starts in the Nationwide Series for these guys that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “I don’t care about me right now.”

 

Kurt Busch Has Another Day At Daytona To Ponder His New Adventure

Kurt Busch now drives for Phoenix Racing, an organization much smaller than those that have employed him in the past. Busch, however, thinks the team has potential and has become accustomed to what he calls a "simpler" type of racing.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Heavy downpours postponed the Daytona 500, for the first time in 54 years, until noon today, giving drivers and teams an opportunity to reflect on the 2012 season – should they care to do so.

While hanging out during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway leading up to the first of this year’s 36 races, Kurt Busch did just that.

Specifically, he pondered his new role as the driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolets owned by James Finch.

Busch came to Daytona with a new outlook after his mutual parting last November with Penske Racing, the powerhouse organization with which he won 12 of his 24 career victories.

Busch is excited about driving for the smaller, but productive Finch organization, as well as a new Nationwide Series opportunity as teammate to younger brother Kyle.

Everywhere the Las Vegas native looks, he sees work going on on the handful of red, white and black cars scattered about in the team’s small Spartanburg, S.C., shop.

“Everyone is working three times as hard and it’s great to see the youthful exuberance and excitement,” Busch said. “This is different. It’s a small group and we are hoping that we are the little team that can.”

The team is so small that when Busch comes to visit and talk with crew chief Nick Harrison or Finch, he wears jeans and T-shirts just in case someone on the team hands him a wrench or an air sander.

“Yeah, I jump right in there with the guys,” Busch said. “We have been mounting seats which has been the primary focus. I’ve even helped string the car or bump steer it.

“I was there when they put it on the pull-down rig, just to see how they do their sequence of set-ups. It is so refreshing to see that the steps they are taking are the same steps all the big teams are doing.

“You can say our pull down-rig doesn’t cost as much as the ones the big time teams are using, but it is there; it’s efficient and it’s easy to use.”

Busch was involved in some testing before the season began in part to become familiar with those on the team and to hear Harrison’s ideas about the cars.

“We were here in Daytona of course, then we went over to Nashville Superspeedway for a two-day test. We burned up a good 10 sets of tires,“ Busch said. “Finch is like, ‘Come on. Tires? Really?’

“I learned Finch does not like the Goodyear tire bills. It is going to be fun all year long asking him for an extra set of tires.

“I was getting off on too much of a sarcastic tone there.

“Harrison is a guy from Tennessee from the days of Sterling Marlin. It’s not really grassroots. It’s just old school and everybody knows everybody, they work really hard and at the end of the day they crack a beer and talk about what has to happen the next day.”

Busch mutually agreed to part ways with Penske Racing and team owner Roger Penske (left) at the end of last season. With Penske, Busch earned 12 of his career 24 Sprint Cup victories.

Even though it’s early in the season, Busch said he plans to be with Finch and brother Kyle in 2012 and see where things stand in 2013 and beyond.

He and Finch do not have a contract and will rely on a pleasant relationship and success to chart the future.

“There is that opportunity,” Busch said. “I mean the future doesn’t have a definition for me other than 2012 is going to be a lot about fun.

“I’ve got Finch’s Phoenix Racing. I’ve also got Kyle’s KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) program to work with and the Monster Energy group of guys and I’ll run probably half the Nationwide schedule over there.”

Busch feels very good he’ll have something to celebrate this season.
“I said to the guys I want to get kicked out of the garage,” Busch said. “They said, ‘What the heck does that mean?’ I said, ‘We’re going to win a race this year and I want to be sitting at the back of the hauler on top of our coolers, drinking beer when NASCAR tells us we have to go.’

“I hope we get kicked out of the garage that way.’”

Leading up to the 500, Busch lost some good race cars to crashes in practice and the Budweiser Shootout and had to make repairs to a third car when he struck a seagull in final practice.

But his car for the 500 seems good and is equipped with a strong Hendrick Motorsports engine.

“There is the quantity of cars that are on the floor. The quality of cars, the Hendrick chassis’ that we have that we want to work with, hose are limited,” Busch said. “Over time we will get some more.

“I hope we win the Daytona 500 because that means we will have more of a budget to buy more cars. It is that old school, you have to do well and protect the car, so you have it the next week.”

The Daytona 500 has had its share of surprise winners throughout its five-decade history, the latest  being rookie Trevor Bayne in 2011.

So what would it mean to Busch to win the Daytona 500 in Finch’s lesser-funded Chevrolet?

“I’ve finished second three times,” Busch said. “I’ve pushed a teammate to win, Ryan Newman, back in 2008. I remember back in 2005, when I had a move to make on Jeff Gordon on the outside going into turn three, I looked in the mirror and saw everybody cutting to the inside to go by me in the draft. I’m like, ‘Man, I just got to block to the inside and take this second-place finish.’

“It kind of eats at me a little bit that I should have taken that risk to go to the high side and see what could have happened off the fourth turn.

“It’s really the race that can define a driver’s career,” Busch added. “It is a big priority, the prestigious value of winning at Daytona and what it does for a driver’s career long term, what it can do for the immediate impact. This race is our spectacle. It is the most important stock car race of the year.”

No matter for whom he races, you have to admit Busch as a shot a victory. He is one of the best at drafting on Daytona’s high banks.

No doubt a win in the 500 would certainly be an improbable, even incredible, comeback story.

 

Can The Busch Brothers Change? Yes, And Here Are Ways How

 

Kurt (left) and Kyle Busch have clearly established their driving talents, but both have volatile personalities that have had negative affects on their careers. It seems obvious they need to make changes, but can they? Certainly it's possible - but up to them.

Kurt and Kyle. Kyle and Kurt.

Independently they have made magic on the track and mayhem in their careers. They are volatile, boorish, immature, outrageous, and devastatingly talented. Their accomplishments on the track, however, have paled considerably to their behaviors off.

Now the elder brother Kurt is trying to rebound from his recent (mutual) dismissal from Penske with a NASCAR Sprint Cup ride with James Finch’s lesser-tier Phoenix Racing, running both Nationwide and Sprint Cup. What else does he do to find work? Hitch his talents to brother Kyle’s Nationwide team to split the season.

Many see this move as incredibly stupid, citing the brothers’ inability to play nice with others, including one another. They say the union will self-destruct and no good will come from the pairing.

I disagree. Family may be exactly what these boys need to repair their images, get back on track and start winning the war of public opinion.

I remember clearly a time when Kurt was the only Busch brother driving in NASCAR. When being interviewed about his talents Kurt smiled slyly and said, “If you think I’m good, wait until you see my brother.”

This foreshadowing showed an older brother’s respect for his younger sibling and a bond that only family produces.

Once Kyle earned a ride in Cup, I distinctly recall him winning in his native Las Vegas in 2009.

It charmed me to see brother Kurt and their mother join Kyle in Victory Lane. Family, so much a part of NASCAR and which is so appealing to me, was strongly present and, obviously, important to the brothers Busch.

I am a staunch believer that all people can change. Kurt and Kyle have worn their snottiness and intolerance as badges – if not the armor they wear into battle.

I hoped that after Kurt lost his ride at Roush and Kyle his at Hendrick, the two would mature a little bit.

And, at first, it seemed they tried. Once Kyle got married to the former Samantha Sarcinella I was certain he’d make a strong run for the championship in 2011. Alas, I was wrong. But I am not closing the door to the idea that both of these men can change for the better.

Dale Earnhardt once told a young Jeff Gordon, “At least they’re making noise. It’s when they stop making noise that you know something’s wrong.”

Kurt and Kyle still garner huge attention, passionate responses from the crowd and are polarizing. But Penske could no longer stomach the elder Busch’s tirades and lack of control. Finch has already said that if Kurt had behaved with him the way he did with Penske, “He would have gotten his ass beat on pit road.”

It was just a matter of time before Joe Gibbs would be forced to let Kyle go if his judgment didn’t improve. I have to believe that such facts will alter the drivers’ behavior.

A new girlfriend for Kurt and a savvy wife for Kyle may be what soothe the savage beasts that reside within the brothers Busch.

I’m hoping that for their sake, and for that of NASCAR fans as well, the Busch brothers can harness their ambition, talent, brattiness and rage and do what they truly do best – win races.

Perhaps a back-to-basics season for the two drivers will refocus and re-energize their efforts. Perhaps Kurt can parlay this season into a Chase contention and Kyle can, finally, make a decent run at the championship.


Kurt Busch Declares Sprint Cup as His Series,Austin Grand Prix of Americas Update, Peugeot Is Out

Kurt Busch declared that he will contest for the sprint Cup title in 2012. Some were betting he would go for Nationwide. The Formula One track in Austin will be ready in August, the track says. If so, then it should be back on the Formula One Calendar for November, the next to last race. Peugeot entered the LeMans Series with a technological marvel, the Peugeot 908 HDI. It announced on 1-18-12 that it would cease racing operations effective immediately.

NASCAR Testing Speeds Over 206 MPH, Edwards Bails on Nationwide Racing, Lotus Tests IndyCar

This past week Kurt Busch reached a speed of over 206 MPH in a tandem draft. NASCAR expressed no concern as they feel they have a handle on the aero package. Carl Edwards wont run Nationwide in 2012 in order to concentrate on the Sprint Cup Title. Simona de Silvestro tested the Lotus Indycar this past week,

And Now, Just A Few More “Thoughts” On The Coming Season

Among the drivers who will be closely scrutinized in 2012 is Kurt Busch, who begins his new association with team owner James Finch. Busch will be observed closely to see if he can achieve competitiveness with Finch's organization, which does not have the resources of the top teams.

In NASCAR circles, each new year brings with it a sense of anticipation over what might happen in the coming season and which competitors, many of whom are in new situations, will bear the most scrutiny.

The Internet has already been flooded with prognostications from bloggers, media folks and fans – which is to be expected.

Do you mind if I offer a few more? I daresay you won’t find most of this to be anything new, but I’ll try to spice it up with my own, uh, “comments.”

 

*** Wherever David Ragan might find employment for 2012, I hope he is successful.

Ragan got his release from Roush Fenway Racing at the end of last season due to a lack of sponsorship.

At first he was considered the logical choice to replace Kurt Busch at Penske Racing. That didn’t happen. Instead, A.J. Allmendinger got the ride.

Then Ragan was listed as the frontrunner for the vacated No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. However, word is that Aric Almirola will get the job.

Reportedly Ragan is now on the list for the Nationwide ride at JR Motorsports.

Understand, I don’t have a thing against Allmendinger and Almirola and wish them well. But it seems to me that Ragan more than satisfied his apprenticeship at Roush and had shown great promise as a Cup driver.

I was like many others when I assumed he would certainly fill one of the two Cup openings at the end of 2011. So the question is, what gives here?

There are things that go on behind the scenes in driver-team negotiations of which we are not aware, and so, it could well be that Ragan’s potential was recognized – but Penske and RPM may have had several other considerations and concerns.

Ragan is likely disappointed his Cup opportunities have faded, given he won his first career race last season, but he’ll get another chance.

Especially if he maintains a high level of performance, no matter where he winds up.

 

*** Not to belabor the obvious, but Danica Patrick is certainly going to attract a lot of attention as she embarks on a Cup career in 2012.

Her grooming in the Nationwide Series will help her but she’s going to be facing much tougher competition. And she will face a grueling schedule of 33 races instead of 15 on the open-wheel tour.

But let’s be real and give her a break. Let’s not ask too much of her.

Patrick

Former open wheel driver Danica Patrick begins her Sprint Cup career in 2012 and will obviously be the center of a great deal of attention. She faces many challenges, among them a much more grueling schedule and tougher competition.

Most first-timers in the Cup series face a long learning curve. So it will be with Patrick. Additionally, as said, she must make huge competitive adaptations. It’s going to take time.

I’m not making excuses for her. There is no need.

I agree with the wags that say, “She’s just another pretty face.” Can’t deny her looks.

But I do not agree with those who point to her rather unspectacular past record and claim, “She really doesn’t have much talent.”

Indeed, she has displayed great ability to market herself and her sponsors. But if she didn’t also have driving talent and natural ability, she wouldn’t be here – repeat, she wouldn’t be here.

In 2012, she has a chance, over time, to show just how much of both she has.

 

*** Kyle Busch is an enigma.

Unquestionably, he has a tremendous amount of driving talent, as he has displayed over recent seasons with his numerous victories in all three of NASCAR’s major circuits.

He won four Cup races last year, second only to Tony Stewart’s five. He easily made the Chase and was, in fact, No. 1 in points when the final 10 races began.

But then he purposely wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr. in a truck race, was thus suspended for one Cup event by NASCAR and, consequently, his hopes for a first-ever championship evaporated. He finished 12th in points – last in the Chase.

After the season Busch said he couldn’t think of a single incident he regretted – which is perplexing – and added his Joe Gibbs Racing team suffered from its usual “10-race swoon.”

Well, not exactly. Busch brought his fate down upon himself. Given that, and the fact that he’s finished in the top 10 in points only once in the last four years with JGR, it’s time for him to curb his behavior and step up his overall Cup performance.

I wouldn’t be surprised if JGR reached the same conclusion.

 

*** I’ve said that I don’t believe Kurt Busch’s new association with team owner James Finch will be successful.

Consider that Finch, one of the great characters in the garage area, has never been able to compete at NASCAR’s highest level. He’s won a race with driver Brad Keselowski but he’s not been mentioned in the same breath with Roush, Hendrick, Childress and, yes, Penske.

Finch benefits through cars and engines from Hendrick but even such resources can’t match those of the top teams.

Given that, I can’t help but wonder how much “fun” Busch is going to have if he can’t enjoy the type of competitiveness to which he has become accustomed.

He won twice with Penske in an inconsistent 2011 season. When things weren’t going well he certainly didn’t hesitate to angrily and sarcastically place blame or curb his temper.

Hard to imagine him not doing either given the likely odds he won’t be overly competitive in 2012. Perhaps, in time, Finch won’t put up with it any more than Penske did.

Busch and Finch can prove me wrong. I’ll gladly eat crow. I’ve done it before.

 

*** This is by no means as simple as it sounds, but if Carl Edwards can keep his spirits aloft and ramp up, only slightly, his performance from 2011 – which means add a couple more victories – he should easily be a championship contender, again.

And I’ll say that, in 2012, Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins a race for Hendrick.

No, really.

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