Making the Grade: A Preview of the Probable 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Top 12 (Part 2 of 12)
Misunderstood, outspoken, brash, an outlaw.
Those are some of the ways to describe Kurt Busch, one of the most polarizing athletes in the world who's also one of the most talented and dedicated NASCAR racers around in the circuit. A former champion and 24-time race winner, it's not a stretch to say that the last few seasons for the Las Vegas native have been controversial and difficult.
After mutually departing from Penske Racing following the 2011 season, a year in which his blowups with his crew and then boss Roger Penske were put on the media spotlight, it was off to new pastures with Phoenix Racing and James Finch. Despite an approach to "go old school racing," it was more of the same aggressive song and dance with the No. 51 team, often resulting in wrecked racecars and tempers flaring after the races.
Call it a case of "losing his cool" or just a driver who simply had a rough day in the office, Busch, who perhaps could have dealt with his bad days in a more composed way, was sometimes misunderstood for his reactions after races.
Honestly, how many of us can say feel great even after a bad day at work? Of course, we wouldn't blast about our peers, but then again, there's a thing called an outlet.
Perhaps Kurt Busch's outlet is just to verbally unleash his pressure much like a kettle of tea needing to let out some steam. Despite his attitude, he is a legit racer who can still win races by the bunches and given the right opportunity, he could win a few championships down the road.
That opportunity may come, as Busch will be driving the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet SS full-time this year.
A sample shot with his current team came last year starting with the Charlotte fall race, placing 21st. Following his 25th place finish at Kansas, flashes of brilliance ensued with a 15th at Martinsville, a pair of eighth place finishes at Texas and Phoenix, and a ninth at Homestead.
It seems like the combination of Busch and crew chief Todd Berrier has found its stride early. Their communication seems strong thus far and the equipment and resources at Furniture Row Racing are strong, thanks to a partnership with Richard Childress Racing and a strong in-house program that's gone from "start and park" status in 2006 and '07 to contenders in the following years.
Yes, an 11th place points finish for Busch and the No. 78 team may seem too high and means that some notable drivers are being passed over. However, the potential for a tremendous season is within reach and a driver like Busch can still get the job done.
Phoenix Racing looked about as stout as ever last season when Busch was wheeling their cars. Sure, the finishes didn't show but it's undeniable how the 2004 Cup champion was able to wheel decent equipment to the front with the likes of Hendrick and Gibbs-powered machines.
Anything is possible with the No. 78 team in 2013. With that in mind, a Chase berth and 11th place points finish is realistic and just perhaps, this season is truly a comeback for Kurt Busch on his path towards redemption in Cup racing.
Till then, keep at it, Outlaw.