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Busch to Furniture Row with six races left in '12

September 28, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com



Busch to Furniture Row with six races left in '12

DOVER, Del. -- Kurt Busch will waste no time getting behind the wheel of his new ride with, he said, a new 19-year-old "Zen master" riding shotgun.

Furniture Row Racing general manager Joe Garone announced Friday that Busch will begin driving the No. 78 Chevrolet in two weeks, beginning with the Oct. 13 Bank of America 400 at Charlotte Speedway.

"He says 'no more clown questions.' I'm not going to answer any more clown questions. So, I'm really looking up to 19-year-old Bryce Harper to help me through this."

--KURT BUSCH

Busch, who will continue to drive the No. 51 for James Finch at Dover International Speedway this week, says it will give him a chance to "work the bugs out" prior to the 2013 season.

It's part of turning over a new leaf, on and off the track, for the 34-year-old driver, who latched on with Finch's Phoenix Racing after losing his job with Penske Racing in the wake of a series of damaging public relations incidents a year ago.

"I was following my 'Zen master' Charlie Sheen, and that wasn't going very well," Busch said during Friday morning's introductory press conference at Dover.

"So, I had to look around, and I followed a fellow top-10, most-hated athlete -- LeBron James. He brought his talents down to Miami and won a championship, and I'm going to use that as motivation. I'm going to take my talents to Denver [home of Furniture Row] and bring the championship out there."

But Busch said he's found further inspiration.

"I decided I [still] needed a new 'Zen master,' and I found him," he said. "It's Bryce Harper."

Harper, 19, hasn't won a championship yet, but with 21 homers in his rookie season, he's helped bring the long-struggling Washington Nationals to the brink of a division title with a no-nonsense approach, including refusing to answer what he termed a "clown question" from a reporter earlier this season. Like Busch, Harper was raised in Las Vegas.

"He's so wise," Busch said. "He says 'no more clown questions.' I'm not going to answer any more clown questions. So, I'm really looking up to 19-year-old Bryce Harper to help me through this."

More than that, Busch is looking to a team with deeper wallets, better equipment, more depth in personnel and a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing to help him get back to the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

"With Kurt behind the wheel, we are going to win some races and compete competitively every weekend," predicted Garone, who notes that Furniture Row offers Busch the benefit of a 64-man operation. Busch said Finch has an eight-man team, all but two of whom do double duty at the track each week.

Busch said anyone who considers this a "lateral" move on his part would be making a mistake.

"With the [No.] 51 guys, we've worked hard. We've had fun, and we went to the race track every week hoping the stars would align like they almost did at Sonoma [where Busch finished third]," he said.

"The 51 -- we're running equipment that's 4 years old, all 2008 stuff. We did the best we could with what we had. Everybody knows this 78 car has much more potential. ... [The 78] is a diamond in the rough, a program that's not reached its full potential. I can't wait to get in the car and deliver."

Busch hasn't had another top-10 finish since June 24 at Sonoma. Garone and team owner Barney Visser expect that Busch will provide an upgrade over Regan Smith, who won at Darlington last year but hasn't been able to repeat that success. Smith's only top-10 finishes this season were ninths in consecutive races at Pocono and Watkins Glen.

Busch likes that he'll be working with veteran crew chief Todd Berrier and the idea of having the final six weeks of this season to prepare for next year.

"I think you need an experienced crew chief in this garage. I believe in him," Busch said. "With these six weeks, we won't go to Daytona with a deer-in-the-headlights feel. We're going to get all the bugs worked out, the newness, the operating procedure, the trips back and forth to Denver. All this will be scienced out, smoothed out."

Busch's tenure with Finch's Phoenix Racing lasted less than one season. How long he's prepared to stay with Furniture Row, also a single-car operation, is anyone's guess.

"Who knows how long this marriage could match up?" Busch said. "In this day and age, everybody dates before they get married, so we'll see how this works out. It's important to be comfortable in a situation and be on the same page. Who knows? I might not need to test the waters of the free-agent market."