Kurt Busch released from Penske Racing

12:51 PM, Dec 5, 2011   |    comments
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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, effectively immediately.

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 his actions.

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 endeavors."

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 Phoenix race.

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.

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