What Are You Thinking, Joe?

Kurt Busch

(WOMR file photo)

Joe Gibbs said what?

It is a given that Joe Gibbs is one of the most respected, down-to-earth, and logical persons in the NASCAR garage area these days.  However, Tuesday when he uttered the words, “We Love Kurt (Busch)”, his sanity was in question!

My immediate reaction was, “what the heck are you thinking, Joe”?  Isn’t managing Kyle a large enough challenge, never mind possibly taking on another problem child, Kurt?

After reading several other articles, it is just not my opinion, but that of many others who cover the NASCAR beat.

A proven tack record

Over the years in football, as well as in the NASCAR world, Gibbs has proven to be a very well grounded, respected, and proven leader.  He has proven to the world that he has the patience and the leadership to handle some of the professional sports most high-strung athletes.

From his days as the head coach of the Washington Redskins, and dealing with such “loose cannons” as John Riggs and Dexter Manley, to his NASCAR dealings with Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs has proven time and time again that he has all the tools to deal with “outlaw” personalities!  Even though Gibbs was able to marginally muzzle, harness, and occasionally redirect some of Tony Stewart’s vocal outbursts, and through it all gathered up two Sprint Cup championships with “Smoke” at the wheel.  Nevertheless, it was a constant challenge for Gibbs to “harness” Tony Stewart.

Likewise, Gibbs has had another major challenge with the likes of one of the most hated drivers in the NASCAR garage, Kyle Busch.  Kyle has gladly taken on the role of NASCAR “villain”, however, it has come full circle to bite him directly in the wallet!  Kyle has also caused the whole Joe Gibbs Racing organization embarrassment, sponsorship dollars, and some credibility.  It would be a vast understatement to say that Kyle Busch has caused Gibbs all kinds of headaches—from run-ins with other drivers, to a highly publicized speeding infraction (a public highway speeding infraction), to an embarrassing and damaging NASCAR suspension after the race at the Texas Motor Speedway last fall.

Kyle a choirboy?

But Kyle is a choirboy compared to his big brother (Kurt), who’s been shown the door by two elite NASCAR teams, Roush-Fenway Racing and Penske Racing, because of his behavior on and off the track, as well as several run-ins with a variety of people, from TV reporters to sheriff’s deputies to NASCAR drivers and officials.

My thought is; why would Joe Gibbs want to associate his organization with a driver (Kurt Busch) who, over his twelve-year career, has yet to prove that he can control his emotions, his tongue, and his temper?

But if Gibbs hires Kurt Busch, that might be his biggest challenge yet. After a turbulent career with Roush Fenway Racing, which included an ugly confrontation with Arizona sheriff’s deputies, Roush officials were glad to see Busch go, despite him delivering Roush’s first Cup championship in 2004.

“We’re tired of being Kurt Busch’s apologists,” team president Geoff Smith said at the time.

KuBu then moved to Penske Racing, where he won 10 races and made the Chase four times in six seasons. But Busch wore out his welcome last year with a series of tirades, including him verbally abusing respected ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch during the season finale at Homestead. Tired of his antics, Roger Penske, another highly respected team owner, sent him packing after the season.

Banished to underfunded Phoenix Racing, Busch pledged to clean up his act this season and repair his image, in an effort to land another elite ride.

Then came the May 12 Southern 500 at Darlington, where Busch went on a profanity-laced tirade over his team radio and sped angrily through Ryan Newman’s pit stall, igniting a crew scuffle on pit road after the race.

Busch was fined $50,000 for reckless driving and placed on probation.

In spite of all the well documented Kurt Busch “melt-downs”, Joe Gibbs may be interested in pursuing Kurt Busch with a job offer?  But where would Kurt fit into the Joe Gibbs Racing equation?  The only choices that I see is that if Kurt Busch were to get a job offer from JGR, he would either be placed into the seat of the #20 Home Depot Toyota, replacing under-performing Joey Logano, whose contract expires at the end of this season, or starting the much talked about fourth race team.

Easy as those two choices appear, they are no simple feats.  Replacing Logano with Kurt Busch would require Home Depot coming onboard with that decision.  Likewise, starting a fourth race team requires selling Kurt Busch to corporate America in order to gather up the much needed sponsorship dollars.  Therefore, with Kurt’s past reputation, those sponsorship dollars may be very difficult to line up, even for a very respected team owner like Joe Gibbs!

Therein lies the dichotomy that may be bestowed upon Joe Gibbs, if he decides to bring Kurt Busch into the Joe Gibbs Racing fold!

So again I ask the question:

What are you thinking, Joe?


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