News & Media


Sources: Busch's Penske future on table Monday

December 04, 2011, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

Team officials to meet; sources say announcement expected by mid-day

Officials from Penske Racing plan to meet Monday to discuss the future of driver Kurt Busch with the organization, multiple sources confirmed Sunday night.

Although there were numerous reports published Sunday citing that Busch already had been fired as driver of the No. 22 Dodge for Penske, sources insisted to NASCAR.COM that no decision had been made with total certainty as of late Sunday. They did add that an announcement of some sort was expected by the Penske organization by mid-day Monday, and one source said that it was more likely it would be announced that Busch and Penske were parting ways by mutual agreement rather than by an outright firing of the driver.

"You can work 364 days on being positive and building a better platform, and it can take just one day to knock it all back."

--KURT BUSCH

Busch, 33, recently was fined $50,000 by NASCAR for making an obscene gesture that was caught on camera as he brought his car into the garage for repairs early in the 2011 season's final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The fine also was for his actions as he unleashed a profanity-laced tirade on a television analyst who was seeking an interview that same day -- with those actions caught on video by a fan and posted to YouTube.

Those transgressions continued a pattern for Busch, who frequently feuded with his crew chief, Steve Addington, as well as his pit crew and even team owner Roger Penske off and on over the past two seasons. Busch also directed insults toward the Penske and Dodge engineering staffs in the garage area following the transmission problem that took him out of the race at Homestead.

Addington quit as Busch's crew chief shortly after the season ended, and was quickly hired by Stewart-Haas Racing to serve as defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart's crew chief beginning next season.

Earlier during the 2011 season Busch also lost his temper and was involved in incidents with media members, for which he later apologized. He admitted more than once that he needed to do a better job of controlling his anger on race days, and just recently employed the help of a sports psychologist for that very reason.

"You can work 364 days on being positive and building a better platform, and it can take just one day to knock it all back," Busch said recently during an interview in Las Vegas. "I need to harness what happens in the race car and keep it there. Then I need to step out of the car and do a better job to understand that if we didn't reach our goal for that day or that moment, that it's going to be all right at the end."

Busch began driving for Penske in 2006 and has won at least one race in each of his six seasons with the organization -- and in each of the past 10 Cup seasons overall. He has 24 career victories, including two last season -- one of which came early in the just-concluded 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

But Busch faded down the stretch in the Chase and finished 11th in points after he and team officials had hoped he would contend for the championship.

Busch spent his first five Cup seasons with the organization then known as Roush Racing, winning a championship in 2004. Eventually his relationship with team owner Jack Roush and others within that organization soured, however, and he was forced out of his job there toward the end of the 2005 season when a team official stated the organization would "no longer be Kurt Busch's apologist."

If Busch is out of the driver's seat of the No. 22 as expected, the top candidate to replace him appears to be David Ragan -- who is out of his ride at Roush Fenway Racing. Another possible candidate would be David Reutimann, who recently lost his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing.

It is unknown at this point where Busch would land, although he almost certainly will be offered another job somewhere in the Cup garage after making the Chase in four of the past five seasons and finishing as high as fourth in 2009.

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