Friday, December 23, 2011

Kurt Busch finds a ride, but Silly Season still isn’t settled

Even though the biggest name of the NASCAR offseason found a ride, the Silly Season surprisingly still contains several unknowns.

Kurt Busch found a landing spot in the #51 Phoenix Racing car after he mutually separated with Roger Penske and left the #22 car Dec. 5 following his tirade in the final race of the season Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

However, that move does little to clear up the jumbled mess his leaving Penske Racing created.

After Busch left the #22 car it looked like he had very few options for a new ride, and that was true. The #51 car is certainly not a sought-after ride by championship-winning drivers. That car is usually battling for a spot in the top 35 in the points standings rather than battling for championship.

Still, most people thought A.J. Allmendinger was going to stay in the #43 car and the seat in the #22 car would be left up for grabs to unemployed drivers such as David Ragan, David Reutimann and Brian Vickers.

Instead, Best Buy left the #43 car, Penske chose Allmendinger,to drive the #22 car and the three previously mentioned unemployed drivers are still without a ride.

Busch had reportedly talked to Richard Petty Motorsports about driving the #43 car, and that would have cleared up a lot of speculation. Busch would go to the #43, Landon Cassill would stay in the #51 and everybody else would be out of luck.

But that’s not how it works this offseason. Busch ended up at the #51 car so speculation can run wild about who will drive the #43 car and how that team will piece together enough sponsorship to run full-time next season.

Ragan has been a contender for nearly every open ride since the season ended, but he has so far failed to get the job. He has been mentioned as an option for the #43 car, but more recent reports say Nationwide Series driver Aric Almirola might be the guy to get a shot in the #43 Ford.

If that happens, Ragan, Reutimann, Vickers and now Cassill will be in an even more dire position as we head into 2012. After an offseason where unexpected openings popped nearly every week, those three former Sprint Cup Series winners might be relagated to a Nationwide Series ride, at best.

Those scenarios will likely play out after the holidays, but the Busch situation is also still a bit up in the air.

Busch will drive the #51 car in the Cup series, but he also might run in the Nationwide Series for his brother’s team, Kyle Busch Motorsports. If he wanted to add another wild twist to this already crazy offseason, Kurt Busch could decide he doesn’t have a shot at the Chase in the #51 car and instead run for the championship in the Nationwide Series.

Since drivers can now only run for the championship in one series, he would effectively throw away the 2012 Cup season.

That would be a bold move considering there is no guarantee a big-time ride will become available after next season, and he might just have to make the best of his situation at the #51 car.

In any case, the 2012 starting grid is far from set, and Busch’s announcement that he found a job didn’t do much to straighten out where everyone will be by the time Speedweeks roll around at Daytona in February.

Busch’s move certainly filled in a puzzle piece, but it isn’t the final one we may have thought it would be when he left the #22 car a month ago.


  1. Another way of looking at Sprint Cup racing in 2012 is how many total rides will there be verses the number of rides in 2011... Here we've got 4 established Cup drivers seemingly on the outside looking in and one potential replacement up from Nationwide... So the way I see it there's been a net loss of 3 rides? These are the losses:1 at RCR, 1 at RFR and 2 at Red Bull. A split time new ride is coming on line at SHR... I'd say Vickers, Ragan, Cassill and Reutimann may be SOL... I'm sure Danica getting a part-time ride at the Cup level is going to ruffle some feathers among the fans as this group of drivers watches from the bleachers...

    Thanks Jacob!

  2. Dwindy1 - You think there's any chance Stewart-Haas Racing gets some sponsoship to have one of those drivers fill in the races Danica won't run?

  3. Vickers et al sharing Danica's ride is not necessarily dependent on finding another sponsor. GoDaddy will sponsor her 10 races, and based on published reports, is not opposed to sponsoring more races IF the right driver is put in the seat. There was talk for a time that she might share the seat with Mark Martin; GoDaddy quashed that idea with a very firm NO.

    The obstacle- should one of them meet with GoDaddy's approval- is the "lack" of a crew chief for that ride. Greg Zipadelli has committed to being on the box for the Daytona 500 and has stated that he is more than willing to act as Danica's crew chief for her entire 10 race schedule. I'm not sure he would agree to making a full time deal.

  4. Who really cares about the insignificant spec series referred to as NA$CAR (IROC, WOO, CART ? ) if you are tired of pro wrestling oops I meant NA$CAR all one needs to do is visit your local fair grounds race track or the local dirt track to find real racing with real racers instead of the spokemodels pushed on you by NA$CAR. In fact you won't find anything as phoney as a NA$CAR spokesmodel (cute as they may be) at your local track, no indeed, what you will find are drivers that own their rides and wrench on their rides and race simply because they love it and when the race is over they like nothing better than talking to the fans and hanging out with the fans instead of being driven to their helicopters or private jets so they can rush off to their next spokesmodel engagement.

  5. Even in NASCAR, teams are feeling the pinch due to the current administrations lack of effort to shore up the economy. I would have to think the three drivers with out rides now could have easily found a new ride with well funded teams.

    As it is now I doubt seriously they will run in 2012.