News & Media


Busch to drive No. 51 for Phoenix Racing in 2012

December 22, 2011, Dave Rodman and David Caraviello, NASCAR.com

Kurt Busch has found a new ride -- in the No. 51 car of Phoenix Racing.

The 2004 NASCAR champion will drive James Finch's car next year on the Sprint Cup tour. Steve Barkdoll, general manager for the Spartanburg, S.C.-based team, confirmed Thursday that Busch would be the team's driver. Busch, reached later by telephone, said he had a one-year deal to run the full schedule.

"Christmas came early for me, and it was nice that we were able to sit down [Wednesday] night, have a beer and then have a handshake deal at the end of it," Busch said. "James Finch is exactly what I'm looking for, as far as getting back into the race car to have fun."

"Winning is why I've been in racing for as long as I have, but NASCAR is a very competitive sport, and winning -- especially at the Sprint Cup level -- is hard. "

--JAMES FINCH

Phoenix Racing owner James Finch celebrates with Brad Keselowski  in Victory Lane at Talladega in '09.

"He wants me to go down there, jump right on in and get my hands greasy wrenching on this car -- old school type days."

--KURT BUSCH

Landon Cassill had driven the No. 51 car for most of this past season, posting a best finish of 12th at Michigan. Finch's team has won one race at the Sprint Cup level, with Brad Keselowski at Talladega in the spring of 2009. Finch, who fields a Chevrolet and uses Hendrick Motorsports equipment, has owned cars in NASCAR's premier division since 1990.

"All we want to do is win," Finch said. "Winning is why I've been in racing for as long as I have, but NASCAR is a very competitive sport, and winning -- especially at the Sprint Cup level -- is hard. But now with Kurt Busch as our driver, we have a shot to win every week. He's a past champion and he's proven he can win everywhere. Our sponsors are looking forward to Kurt representing their brands.

"We have excellent equipment and a hard-working group of guys who want that trophy at the end of every race. Kurt's the guy who can deliver it to them."

Busch split from Penske Racing Dec. 5 after a tumultuous season that included controversies over an obscene gesture made in the car and profane remarks made to a television pit reporter, both of which occurred on the final weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Still, Busch won twice last season, and qualified for the Chase for the sixth time in eight years.

"Just like Finch is saying -- all we want to do is win, and we're going to look at the end of the day, each time, and say what added up to this, or what added up to that," Busch said. "We have Hendrick equipment, with motors and chassis. We've got to work through the details with the crew guys, but right now all those guys in Spartanburg, S.C., are running around like wild Indians."

Busch said he plans to test Finch's No. 51 Chevrolet, led by crew chief Nick Harrison, at next month's Preseason Thunder session at Daytona International Speedway. "I talked with [Harrison] on the phone [Thursday] and that's the plan," Busch said. "I've never met Nick -- I've seen him at the race track in passing -- but just talking with him on the phone, this is the guy I want."

Busch will first race the No. 51 in the non-points Budweiser Shootout at Daytona.

"James Finch has always had pretty stout cars for the restrictor-plate races and I know we'll be very competitive at Daytona," Busch said. "We'll participate in the test down there in January to get a good handle on our Daytona 500 car, but also to win another Budweiser Shootout.

At the end of the season, Busch said he'd been working with a sports psychologist on his mercurial mood swings, which have created tense moments with his teammates, his owner, competitors and the media at various times. Busch said the experience is helping.

"There's steps that I've taken already, and each week, talking with the sports psychologist on a routine basis [and] working with the different programs that we're going through," Busch said. "This is all stuff that you can say you're going to make a difference, but I'm putting it into action.

"So having this opportunity with Finch before the holidays just gives you that fresh buzz."

Busch said none of the discussions he had with Finch prior to doing the deal concerned any behavioral parameters. After he split with Penske Racing, Busch said he wanted to bring more fun back into his racing, and he said Finch's independent team fit his short-term bill.

"He wants me to go down there, jump right on in and get my hands greasy wrenching on this car -- old school type days," Busch said. "This is so much fun, the way it reminds me of my old Southwest Tour team, when we had lofty expectations and we were able to deliver."