Kurt Busch finds options, along with speed
May 25, 2013, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com
CONCORD, N.C. -- One year later, the NASCAR garage is the land of opportunity for Kurt Busch. Now instead of having to call teams to broker his own underfunded Sprint Cup Series deal, the phone truly works both ways.
Finding speed will do that for a driver.
Busch's impressive demonstration in the art of being fast has continued this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he qualified second for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m., FOX) in a blazing-fast Thursday qualifying session. The speedy run came on the heels of winning two segments in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race last weekend and claiming the pole position the week before that at Darlington Raceway.
More than a year after his heated, much-publicized departure from Penske Racing, Busch scrambled in the offseason to land a ride with James Finch's small Phoenix Racing outfit. He traded horses late in the season to land with Barney Visser's Furniture Row Racing team, which functions as an unofficial satellite operation for Richard Childress Racing.
Since then, he's let his heavy right foot do the talking, reviving his driving career and opening doors in the process.
"It’s been a year of opportunities," Busch said Thursday at the 1.5-mile track. "And when you have the phone ringing like it is, and you’re on a one-year deal, you’re exploring all types of options. And last year, the advice that I was given was to just stay in the sport and stick around and make sure you come to every race. And if I could hit a reset button and wish that this could be 2012, but when you go through a lot of turmoil and some hardship, it teaches you how to look at things in a wider perspective."
The former Sprint Cup champion's wider view isn't just contained to NASCAR. In the past year, he's had the opportunity to test an Australian V8 Supercar -- the same division of cars that launched the NASCAR career of Marcos Ambrose. Busch also took part in the pageantry of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, eclipsing the 218-mph barrier in an Andretti Autosport IndyCar to pass Indianapolis 500 rookie orientation.
"Now the phone is ringing and people are giving me opportunities," Busch said. "Michael Andretti just doesn’t call every day to give you an IndyCar to drive in the month of May."
While the job market has grown wider, Busch has been careful to keep his primary focus on the Sprint Cup side of things. During the latter stages of his tenure with Penske, Busch dabbled in drag racing, an extracurricular that he said detracted from his "internal drive" while in the No. 22 Dodge.
"I was just frustrated at Penske Racing and venturing off to do the Pro Stock thing and looking around," Busch said. "It’s not the same clarity as it is right now on making sure that I’m happy and I’m focused with my Cup car and being able to do other things. That’s like recess."
If not for crashes at Martinsville and Talladega, plus a late caution period that cost him a shot at a top-three finish at Richmond, Busch's name might be more in the thick of the postseason conversation for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. As it stands now, Busch ranks 18th, just a win or two away from vying for a wild-card berth.
Most recently, Busch tied for the most laps led (29) in the Sprint All-Star Race, but wound up disappointed with a fifth-place finish. Buoyed by his team's improved performance and his increased employment options, it's been easier to shake off the mild setbacks and look forward to the next race.
"That’s the best thing about motorsports," Busch said. "One week you can be a hero. The next week you can be a zero. But every week is a reset button and you have a shot to do something big."
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