AUDIO: KURT BUSCH COMMENTS ON PENSKE DEPARTURE ON SIRIUS/XM NASCAR RADIO
(Busch's days of celebrating victories with Penske Racing are over and his Sprint Cup future is cloudy at best)
The professional sports landscape is littered with talented athletes that have dealt with emotional issues.
Terrell Owens, Albert Haynesworth, Manny Ramirez, Milton Bradley and Dennis Rodman are just a few example of players who could at times perform at the highest level but more often than not battled emotional outbursts that clouded their careers.
Now add Kurt Busch’s name to the list.
The tempestuous Busch paid the ultimate price for his emotional issues when the decision to part ways from Penske Racing was reached on Monday. Despite a season that saw Busch win twice and make the Chase, he’s now looking for a new ride.
Though the carefully worded press releases from both the organization and driver as well as subsequent comments from Busch call the split a “mutual decision,” let’s not sugar coat what really transpired.
Roger Penske and maybe more importantly sponsor Shell/Pennzoil had reached the limit of dealing with Busch’s behavior.
His celebrated You Tube moment at the Homestead-Miami Speedway finale that began with a single fingered salute to some innocent bystander in the garage area and ended with his expletive-laced tirade against ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch and a network camera crew that became an Internet sensation was not the only reason Busch is no longer driving the No. 22 Dodge.
No that incident was just the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and punctuated a season-long body of work which included other run-ins with the media.
"These actions do not represent Penske Racing and are inconsistent with the company’s standards for behavior, respect for others and professionalism,” the organization said in a statement following the weekend. “This matter is being reviewed internally.”
It sure was.
Maybe more importantly than his embarrassing encounters with the working press was Busch’s seemingly constant criticism of his team, crew chief and even the entire Penske organization.
Whether it was aimed at former crew chief Steve Addington, who left a trail of dust behind him worthy of any Roadrunner cartoon to join Tony Stewart, the 22 crew or Roger Penske himself, Busch didn’t do himself any favors in the team morale department.
So Busch now finds himself moving on to the next phase of his career and life.
The spin coming from Busch is that he’s relieved to be out of the pressure cooker and that he never felt completely comfortable in the Penske organization.
“I’m not sure I was the best fit,” Busch told the Associated Press. “My frankness and my intensity, it didn’t play the way I intended it to. It didn’t fit.”
Given how Busch handled himself I doubt there’s a team out there where he would fit in.
Unfortunately he may have some time before Busch can find out if that’s the case. While his resume includes twenty four Sprint Cup wins and a 2004 series championship, I’m hard pressed to think of an owner willing or able to give him another chance at least in NASCAR’s top series.
Busch has already alienated Penske and Jack Roush, where he spent the early part of his Cup career before it ended with being parked at the end of the 2005 season in the aftermath of a drinking and driving incident in Phoenix.
Toss in the already shrinking garage area with the likes of Roush and Richard Childress Racing shrinking from four to three teams and other organizations such as Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports having “no room at the inn,” the prospects of finding a ride anywhere near the caliber of what he had with Penske are remote at best.
The possibility of Busch taking a second or third tier ride at the Cup level with the Front Row Motorsports or Phoenix Racing teams of the world exists. Or perhaps Busch will team with younger brother Kyle and jump into a KBM Nationwide Series or truck seat next season.
Busch stressed several times during his day-long media blitz on Monday he was looking to “put the fun” back into his racing and that he was prepared to do whatever he could to find a option to allow him to do just that.
He referred to his foray into the NHRA Pro Stock ranks earlier this year as well as taking part in a national street stock series as examples of when he found joy back behind the wheel.
With the calendar now motoring into December and the start of the 2012 NASCAR season literally right around the corner, those may very well be the only two options Busch has to consider.
Talent alone doesn’t always win out when athletes are forced to balance high emotions with their performance on the field or in this case on track.
You have to seriously wonder where and when Busch will get the opportunity to try…again.
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