Mooresville, NC (Sports Network) - One week after NASCAR penalized Kurt Busch
for his outburst at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Penske Racing has relieved Busch
from his driving duties with the No.22 team in the Sprint Cup Series,
Penske announced on Monday that Busch and the team reached a mutual agreement
to end their relationship. The team noted in a news release that it will
evaluate its options for the driver of the No.22 car for the 2012 season.
During the November 20 season-ending race at Homestead, Busch experienced
transmission issues and headed to the garage for repairs in the early going.
The 2004 Sprint Cup champion was videotaped making an inappropriate hand
gesture and using foul language while waiting to be interviewed by ESPN pit
reporter Dr. Jerry Punch in the garage area. NASCAR fined Busch $50,000 for
Busch drove for Penske from 2006-11, scoring 10 race wins with the
organization, including two this year (Sonoma and Dover fall event). He also
notched 12 poles during his six-year span there. Busch made the Chase for the
Sprint Cup championship four times with Penske.
He finished this season 11th in the Chase point standings, one spot ahead of
his younger brother, Kyle.
"I am grateful to Penske Racing for six very productive years," Busch said in
a statement. "Together we won a lot of races, 16 in all. Leaving a great
organization and a lucrative contract is not easy, but it's an important step
for me and allows me to take a deep breath to work on things that can make me
a better driver and a better person. I want to personally thank Roger Penske
for the opportunity that he has given me."
In April 2010, Busch signed a contract extension with Penske to drive for the
organization through the 2015 season. Busch is now unsure where he will drive
next year and beyond.
"Coming to a mutual agreement to go our separate ways is a positive step for
me," he said. "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."
During his first five years with Penske, Busch drove the No.2 car with Miller
Lite as his sponsor. But Penske moved Busch to the No.22 car at the start of
this season, with Shell/Pennzoil serving as primary sponsor for his team.
"I appreciate the victories that Kurt has brought Penske Racing and our
sponsors over the past six years," team owner Roger Penske said. "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
Prior to his ride with Penske, Busch drove for Roush Fenway Racing in Sprint
Cup from 2000-05. He missed the last two races of the '05 season after team
owner Jack Roush suspended him for an alcohol-related incident days before the
The 33-year-old Busch has endured a tumultuous season. During the spring race
at Richmond, Busch had a tirade over his team radio, complaining to crew chief
Steve Addington about the poor performance of his car. He also had run-ins
with Jimmie Johnson at Pocono and Richmond (fall event), which led to heated
arguments between the two after those races.
Busch said during last week's NASCAR championship celebration week in Las
Vegas that he has spent the past few months seeing a sports psychologist.
"It's personal issues, of course, and working with a sports psychologist, I've
gotten a small grasp, but there's obviously bigger things that I have to
accomplish, and things can't happen overnight," he said.
Right now, David Ragan, David Reutimann and Brian Vickers are being considered
as the top candidates to replace Busch in the No.22 car. All three drivers are
without a ride for the 2012 season.
Penske is also searching for a new crew chief to replace Addington, who
departed the No.22 team and moved over to Stewart-Haas Racing to serve in the
role for three-time and reigning series champion Tony Stewart.
The Sports Network