(WOMR file photo)
Kurt Busch was not to be out done by his little brother’s on track activities at Texas.
We all remember the temper out burst in the Camping World Truck race at Texas where Kyle, under the yellow flag, pushed Ron Hornaday down the back straight, and then summarily stuck Hornaday, nose first, into the retaining wall. That little outburst got ol Kylie “parked” for the weekend. Additionally, M&M’s removed their sponsorship from the JGR Sprint Cup car for the remaining two races of the year. The sponsors for the JGR #18 Nationwide car, Z-Lines Designs, requested, and Joe Gibbs Racing complied, replacing ol Kylie for the final two races, as well. Those sanctions were pretty severe!
Fast forward to the last race of the season, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Kurt Busch experiences a mechanical issue that forces his team out of the race in the very early stages of the race. As the ESPN pit reporter, Dr, Jerry Punch is waiting to go live for this interview with Kurt, Busch erupts into a profanity lace tirade that is directed towards D. Punch. NASCAR found that Kurt’s behavior was out of line and issued a very hefty Christmas fine of $50,000!
After the fine was posted, the sponsors, the race team, and even ol Kurt himself, went into “max damage control”. Corporate apologies, as well as personal apologies were flying all over the media, from Penske Racing, Shell/Pennzoil, and even Kurt Busch. At the NASCAR banquet last week, word got out that Kurt was consulting with a sports psychologist to deal with his anger issues. Consulting with a sports psychologist was, obviously, a bargaining chip in an attempt to try to save his job at Penske Racing. Or could it be a way to try to show perspective team owners that he is salvageable/employable? Hmmmmm…….
For the last couple of years, Kurt has been very critical of the Penske Racing performance, especially on the race radios. This year his racing commentary has been great fodder for the media, since he is very critical of all who put the race cars on the track each and every week for Penske Racing. He has gone through three crew chiefs in the last four years. Just last week his 2011 crew chief, Steve Addington, resigned from that position, and took a similar position at Stewart-Haas Racing. Addington’s previous position was at Joe Gibbs Racing as the crew chief for another highly opinionated Busch, Kyle. So it was widely known that Addington had all that he could take of the “mouth cancer” of the Busch brothers, resigning after just one season with Kurt!
The Official Penske Racing Announcement:
Penske Racing announced today that it has reached a mutual agreement with driver Kurt Busch to end its driver/race team relationship, effective immediately. The team will evaluate its options for the driver of the #22 Sprint Cup Series car in the future while Busch will seek new opportunities with another race team. “I appreciate the victories that Kurt has brought Penske Racing and our sponsors over the past six years,” said Roger Penske. “While I am disappointed that Kurt will not be racing for our team in the future, both Kurt and I felt that separating at this time was best for all parties, including our team and sponsors. I wish Kurt the best in his future racing endeavors.”
Kurt Busch’s official statement:
“I am grateful to Penske Racing for six very productive years,” said Busch. “Together we won a lot of races -16 in all. Leaving a great organization and a lucrative contract is not easy, but it’s an important step for me and allows me to take a deep breath to work on things that can make me a better driver and a better person. I want to personally thank Roger Penske for the opportunity that he has given me.”
Additional Penske Racing comments:
Penske was out of the country and unavailable to comment directly. But Bud Denker, a senior vice president for Penske Corporation, said the split was best for all parties. “Kurt had some concern with our performance,” Denker told ESPN.com. “Obviously, we had concerns with his on and off the track behavior. We agreed to take the high road for both of us. We agreed that separating at this time was best for all parties, including Kurt and the sponsors.” Denker would not comment on whether Penske Racing had to meet any financial obligations to Busch, who had several years left on his contract. But he said “we have no further obligations, financially or contractually.” Denker said while Shell Pennzoil was consulted in the decision, “it was ultimately our decision.” “It’s important for people to understand the nature of what we’ve done,” Denker said. “It’s a mutual separation. Kurt came to the conclusion and we have as well that it’s time to move on. Kurt has been a terrific driver for us. He’s a friend. We have been working with problems and issues in the past. It’s well documented by everyone. As we looked at 2012 and beyond it was time to move on based on that incident at Homestead.” Denker said it was a difficult decision, noting Busch has done a great job promoting sponsors for Penske Racing.
That is a nice way of saying, “YOUR FIRED”!
Another interesting thought:
One of the criteria Shell/Pennzoil had when it signed with Penske Racing last season was to have a championship-caliber driver. That prompted the move of Busch from the #2 Miller Lite car to the #22. Denker said Busch’s replacement “may not be a championship driver right now,” but said Shell is behind anybody they choose. He acknowledged that David Ragan, who won at Daytona in June, might be a possibility. Ragan remains under contract with Roush Fenway Racing, but he doesn’t have a ride for 2012 because he lost sponsor UPS. Initial inquiries, multiple sources said, have been made. “It could be David, it could be others,” Denker said. “We have not started that process yet.”
The search is on to find a replacement driver for the Penske Racing #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge. Who will that be?
Likewise, Kurt Busch is going to be in the “max I need to find a job mode”! He has many obstacles to overcome. First and foremost is his volatile temper and his inability to channel that energy into a more positive force. It is only 82 days until the beginning of the 2012 season and the Daytona 500. Additionally, it appears that all of the good race teams have their driver lineups secured for 2012. Therefore, it looks unlikely that KuBu will be able to worm himself into a competitive ride for the 2012 at this late date! However, you just never know who will be willing to take on this liability?
Maybe Kyle Busch will hire his brother to drive the KBM #18 Camping World Series truck?
What are your thoughts on Penske severing ties with the 2004 Sprint Cup champion, Kurt Busch?
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!