Kurt Busch settles in at Chip Ganassi Racing
By Rick Minter/ Andrews McMeel Syndication
In today’s NASCAR world, where drivers often have to be able to bring sponsor money to get the good rides, Kurt Busch has proven once again that talent can carry a driver a long way.
NASCAR’s onetime bad boy was announced last week as the new driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet at Chip Ganassi Racing.
It’s the sixth team that has hired Busch in an 18-year career that has seen him score 30 race wins, 27 poles and the 2004 championship.
Busch’s partings with his previous teams weren’t always on the best of terms. He left Roush Fenway Racing after a 2005 season that saw him taken out of the car at Phoenix after an arrest for reckless driving prior to a race.
He quickly landed a ride with Roger Penske and continued to win races, but saw his final year with Penske marred by a verbal attack on highly respected reporter Dr. Jerry Punch — an incident captured on cellphone video and widely distributed via social media.
He moved to the team owned by maverick James Finch for 2012 and to the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team in 2013. In 2014, he joined Stewart-Haas Racing, and more issues surfaced later that year, with a domestic violence allegation that led to him being suspended by NASCAR in February 2015. He was reinstated after three races and won two events in 2015. He recently concluded his final season aboard that team’s No. 41 Ford.
Now he moves to Ganassi, where he replaced Jamie McMurray, who is expected to compete only at Daytona in February and has been offered a front-office position with the team.
Busch said on a teleconference last week that he sees the move to Ganassi’s two-car team — the other being the No. 42 driven by Kyle Larson — as a chance to continue winning races and competing for championships. He won one race this season, made the playoffs and finished seventh in the final Cup standings.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to go out and win races, to have a shot at the championship and to use my experience that I’ve gained over all these years with a group like Chip Ganassi Racing,” he said. “I feel like it’s a good mesh with Kyle Larson. Something that Chip and I talked about as far as the driver lineup and the way that we wanted to go into 2019 and attack and go right out of the gate and go for wins and get this program where it needs to be and what Chip has for his championship dreams.”
Ganassi said getting a driver with Busch’s credentials is a plus for his team.
“I think first of all I think, as anyone knows, it’s not oftentimes a NASCAR champion and a Daytona 500 winner comes available,” he said. “I think when somebody like that comes along, you’ve got to take a serious look at him. It didn’t take me long to say yes, when he became available. It helped that in addition to his talent behind the wheel, Busch could bring financial backing.
“To bring on somebody like Monster is something we are pretty happy about,” Ganassi said. “They have brought a lot to this sport of NASCAR, and I’m as excited as I’ve been in a long time to work with both of them.”
The team owner also said current sponsors McDonald’s and Cessna are still with the team.
Ganassi also said he likes the fact that Busch is known for getting directly involved in the preparation of the race cars and is a regular presence at the race shop.
“I think anytime you can have a veteran guy like that, that A. knows how to win races, but B. is a good guy in the locker room per se, I think that brings something to our team that I think will only enhance a young guy like a Larson or any of the other young guys we have that maybe don’t have the years of experience that put a little gray hair on me from time to time,” he said.
There’s been some speculation that Busch, age 40, will only be in the No. 1 for the 2019 season and then retire, and he didn’t exactly deny that when asked about it on the teleconference.
“If we come out of the gate gangbusters and we’ve got five wins by July Daytona, well, let’s talk about 2020,” he said. “I had always talked about 2019 and that being my 20th full-time year. That’s a number I had in my mind, but anytime you get an opportunity like this and now seeing everybody on the shop floor [at Ganassi’s team], you don’t know what is around the next corner as far as motivation and challenges.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Kurt Busch will drive the No. 1 Chevrolet at Chip Ganassi Racing. PHOTO BY Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR