Kurt Busch’s Best Attributes Are On Display In ’13
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Fans have always thought Kurt Busch to be a punk. Media members seldom enjoy interviewing him. Sponsors have thought of him as poison. Peers have called him out in public and in private: One even made fun of his looks. But finding somebody to criticize his driving talent is a different gig. Dude can drive a race car.
Just how well he can do that has become evident the past season and a half. During that time, he has met the ultimate challenge in racing. He has performed the task that defines driving ability and talent – he has made average race cars go faster than average.
Last year it was the perennial back-marking cars of Phoenix Racing. This year, its the perennially mid-pack cars of Furniture Row. He has taken cars from both of those teams and squeezed speed and overachieving finishes out of them.
His talent elicited this comment from non-friend Brad Keselowski, a driver who knows a bit about making cars go fast: “I think that there will always be a spot for an elite talent in this sport, and Kurt is an elite talent.”
Busch wouldn’t need testimonials had he not always suffered from a well-documented personality disorder. A disorder that cost him jobs at two of the most elite teams in racing: Roush Fenway Racing and Penske Racing.
Anger seems to have had Busch by his throat since his rookie year in Cup: The year during which a one-on-one interview with Busch was considerably shorter than the red-face apology issued by his public relations person.
The confounding thing, the promising thing, about the driver from Las Vegas was that suicidal displays of emotion on and off race tracks were almost always followed by sincere apologies and then better behavior – for a while. Busch always left the critics thinking that he’d turned the emotional corner.
The 2013 season is at its half way point this week. It is races weeks away from entering its playoff phase – the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
And Busch’s talents are center stage. He appears to be on track to put single-car, budget-oriented Colorado-based Furniture Row into the Chase for the first time in its 8.5-years existence. Twenty-ninth in points after the first three races of the season, Busch has steadily climbed upward.
He has recorded three straight top-10 finishes. A week ago at Daytona, he placed sixth and despite bugged by two DNFs this season, Busch has climbed to ninth in points.
And he has his team, and himself, dreaming Chase dreams.
“We always felt the potential was there but the costly combination of mistakes and bad luck kept us from advancing,” Busch, who won the the 2004 NASCAR champion while with the Roush team, said. “We kept plugging away and the positive work effort is paying off with a consistent run of top-10 finishes. As it always does, it will come down to consistency to make the Chase.”
Busch has a good chance at building on that consistency this coming weekend. The Cup race is at New Hampshire Motor Speedway – aka a Kurt Busch track.
He has won three Cup races and has seven top-fives, 11 top-10s and 438 laps led at the Loudon mile.
He’s all positive when he talks about New Hampshire.
“It’s been good to me in the past,” Busch said this week. “I won there three times in Cup and also won a truck race there. It’s a track with a delicate balance, but the race is usually won on how well you can roll the center of the corners. Some years turns one and two are more of a struggle and turn three is always the bumpier corner entry. But it seems like if you can get rolling through the middle it tends to give you a better shot at winning.”
Few would be shocked if Busch were to win at New Hampshire in a Furniture Row Chevy. Or, even, if he would make the Chase. He is that good.
Some would be shocked, however, were he to make it to the end of the season without suffering some kind of self-inflicted public relations wound.
While dude can drive a race car, dude also can find trouble in some pretty predictable places.
A half season can be a long time for a guy out to prove he can do more than overachieve on a race track. We’ll find out if it is too short of a time for Busch to prove he can underachieve as a problem child.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments