Speculation became fact on Monday when Penske Racing and Kurt Busch announced they were ending their relationship.
The Charlotte Observer first reported the split late Sunday night and the news was made official when Penske and Busch both released statements regarding the decision.
"I appreciate the victories that Kurt has brought Penske Racing and our sponsors over the past six years," said Roger Penske. "While I am disappointed that Kurt will not be racing for our team in the future, both Kurt and I felt that separating at this time was best for all parties, including our team and sponsors. I wish Kurt the best in his future racing endeavors."
Busch enjoyed success while racing for the legendary team owner including multiple Sprint Cup victories as well as appearances in the Chase. But after a 2011 season that included a myriad of emotional outbursts, coming to a head at the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway which included an obscenity-laden tirade against ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch and his camera crew, the decision to move on was made.
Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup Series champion, thanked Penske for the opportunity to be part of the organization in a statement that was also released on Monday.
"I am grateful to Penske Racing for six very productive years," read the statement. "Together we won a lot of races – 16 in all. I’m proud that we won on a variety of tracks and this past season reached Victory Lane four times. Another highlight was pushing my teammate to a Daytona 500 win. I also appreciate the lasting friendships I’ve made while working with our great sponsors through the years, including Miller Lite, Shell and Dodge.
“Coming to a mutual agreement to go our separate ways is a positive step for me. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I took time to reflect on what is most important to me and realized I need to find a way to put the fun back into racing. It’s time for a fresh start. Leaving a great organization and a lucrative contract is not easy, but it allows me to take a deep breath and work on things that can make me a better driver and a better person.
“I recognize the passion and emotion that have helped me succeed on the track need to be better channeled off the track. The past few months I began working with a sports psychologist to help me better deal with my emotions, especially following moments of frustration during competition.
“I never want to take for granted that it’s a privilege to earn a living as a NASCAR driver. As I begin this new chapter in my career, I’m excited about the future and committed to making the changes necessary for me to enjoy racing again, to compete for championships and to better represent NASCAR, my sponsors, my team and my fans.“I want to personally thank Roger Penske for the opportunity he gave me and for his friendship, which will continue long into the future.”
Penske is expected the fill the seat with David Ragan while at present Busch announced no immediate plans for his racing future.
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