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Sponsor will dictate Busch's next job
I don’t see Kurt Busch being on the sidelines very long after his release from Penske Racing on Monday. You have to know that with his talent behind the wheel of a stock car, there are a lot of discussions going on with various owners and sponsors right now about how to possibly make something happen with Kurt.
The bottom line is we are a performance-driven sport. Let’s face it, for all his baggage, Kurt has performed at the highest level. He’s won 24 Sprint Cup races and claimed the Cup Series championship in 2004. He has also won at least one race for the last nine consecutive years. Actually, in most years there have been multiple wins.
The bigger hurdle is a sponsor. You don’t have to sell Kurt to an owner that heavily. What sponsor can you sell Kurt to that is willing to take the risk? That’s the biggest challenge right now.
Remember that our sport is not like the NFL, MLB etc. We are a sponsorship-driven sport. That sponsor invests their marketing money in hopes of TV exposure by winning races, interviews and a thousand other ways to utilize their driver and team. Probably one of the biggest components of Kurt being released Monday from Penske Racing was Shell-Pennzoil saying “enough is enough.” Ultimately, Roger Penske made the decision – but you just have to know that Shell-Pennzoil couldn’t stomach any more of this.
The one positive I am seeing in this whole sad episode is Kurt is admitting publicly there is a problem. You all know as well as I do that in any problem situation, recognizing or admitting there is a problem is half the battle. So the good news is Kurt has said in his statement following his release from Penske Racing that he realizes the problem.
So that is a very good Step No. 1. Obviously Step No. 2 becomes one of seeking help for the problem. It appears from the comments Kurt made following his meltdown at Homestead and following his Monday release, that he is seeing a sports psychologist. So that is another positive movement in the right direction.
Everyone, especially Kurt, has to be patient in this area. It’s not like simply walking over and flipping a light switch. That isn’t happening. This has been an ongoing issue with Kurt for years, so don’t expect it to be fixed in a couple visits.
Following that is Step No. 3 and it is the classic case of “actions speak louder than words.” Naturally only Kurt himself, his actions and the future will be the only way we will see how/if Step No. 3 is accomplished.
Let’s face it, Daytona testing is a little less than a month away. I don’t see Kurt being unemployed long nor not being signed by a top-flight team, the reality is it is late in the game.
Like in everything, time will tell. To say the Busch brothers – Kurt and Kyle – have had “issues” is an understatement. Kyle’s had his off-the-track problems this year. Naturally everyone knows about his on-the-track issues with other competitors, with car owner Richard Childress and then being parked for the remainder of the Texas race weekend based on his actions in that weekend’s truck race.
Unfortunately for Kurt, this is now the second championship-quality organization that he has been released from. What brought him to Penske Racing had been getting released from Roush-Fenway Racing. Now with the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season over, Penske Racing is now in Kurt’s rearview mirror.
I know his public persona is pretty tainted, but Kurt Busch is a really good guy. He is just a good person. He takes care of his guys on the team. He does a lot of charity work that folks don’t see. Something just happens to the man when he zips that firesuit up and pulls that helmet on inside the race car. The switch is definitely thrown then and it prevents him from controlling his emotions or feelings.
I’ve mentioned to you before that I don’t want a driver that is going to tell me on the radio the car is perfect, while at the same time we are running 20th in the race. At the same time, there are a lot more constructive ways to convey the information the crew chief and team need over the radio than by constantly beating them up in an F-bomb rage every single race weekend. The truth of the matter is crew chief Steve Addington had enough of it and ultimately led to him leaving to become Tony Stewart’s new crew chief.
All through his NASCAR career, whether it was in the trucks, the Nationwide series or his 10+ years in Cup, he has always been with a top-tier team easily capable of winning races and contending each year for the championship. I honestly don’t think any of us know what possible top-tier rides are really available, until a talent such as Kurt Busch becomes available.
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