Could this be Busch’s last straw?

Kurt Busch behind the wheel
of his brother’s Kyle Busch Motorsports car
Photo – Geoff Burke/Getty Images

By Andrew Laskey
Will Kurt Busch get another chance to remain a driver in NASCAR? 

That fate is yet to be determined as Busch was involved in yet another controversial incident this past weekend involving an exchange of harsh words with a NASCAR reporter. This latest incident has put Busch on the sidelines until June 13th, meaning he will not race in this coming weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at the Pocono Raceway. That puts his team, Phoenix Racing, in a very difficult position moving forward.

Make no mistake, Kurt Busch is indeed a very talented race car driver, having won the Cup Series title in 2004 for Roush Fenway Racing. However, after a run-in with police in Arizona in the fall of 2005, Busch was let go from Roush for the seasons’ final two races. That moment should have been the catalyst for change as it negatively impacted not only Busch but also his team and the team sponsors. 

Busch, however, went on to Penske Racing, where he worked from 2006 through late in the 2011 season. For a time, things seemingly went well for Busch, but frustration again set in during the 2011 season due to lackluster performances and well publicized rants on the team radio as Busch called out his team for their misfortunes.

Busch’s boiling point hit an all time high when he got in a verbal tirade with an ESPN reporter following the 2011 season finale in Homestead, which was caught on video for everyone to see. It was not long after the tirade that Busch and Penske parted ways with AJ Allmendinger taking over the driving duties of the Penske #22 with sponsor Shell/Pennzoil.

Busch was then left without a ride since all of the big name teams had their seats filled for the 2012 season, but was able to put a last minute deal together with Phoenix Racing to drive its #51 for the full 2012 season. It was seemingly a good situation since Busch’s talent could help elevate the performance of the single car team and help keep Busch on the track in 2012 and get positive exposure for his career. 

Kurt Busch being restrained in Darlington
Photo – Getty Images

However, an incident with Ryan Newman in Darlington put Busch on probation and showed the NASCAR world that he has not recovered fully from his previous incidents. And now this latest incident last weekend in Dover has landed himself on the sidelines.

So, when is enough, enough? 

Ultimately all eyes will be on Busch’s team owner, James Finch, in the coming week to see what his reaction and actions will be. Again, there is no doubt that Busch has more than enough talent to be in the Cup Series for a very long time.

However, is this the time when risk outweighs reward? 

Ultimately, sponsors can’t afford negative publicity since their ultimate goal is to promote their products in a positive manner. 

Phoenix Racing is a team that doesn’t even have a fulltime sponsor and needs one to continue forward and to help grow the team. Kurt Busch’s talent was supposed to be directed at helping that cause but ultimately his personality may be a deterrent.