There is much speculation about Kurt Busch’s future in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Last month, a fake Twitter account posted that Busch announced he was retiring at the end of the 2021 season. Busch used video of a scene from the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” to respond and say he was not leaving.
This is a contract year for Busch. He said talks have begun with team owner Chip Ganassi, manufacturer Chevrolet and sponsor Monster Energy. He also said he has texted and called some other teams to set up some meetings.
“Just (to) see what’s out there and see what’s beyond the steering wheel as well,” Busch said. “Whether it’s more simulation work, being a driver, coach and a mentor.
“But all along, I’m a racer. The Next Gen car, I want to race. It was supposed to be out on the circuit this year but with COVID things got delayed until next year. So we’ll see how the summer months progress and how things unfold.”
If 2021 winds up being Busch’s final season, then this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series doubleheader at Pocono Raceway could be the last time he will race at the 2.5-mile triangular track in Long Pond.
During his career, Busch has enjoyed much success at Pocono. In 39 starts, he has two poles, three wins, 14 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes. His three wins came with three different teams: July 2005 in the No. 97 Roush Racing Ford; August 2007 in the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge; and June 2016 in the No. 41 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet.
The moment that stands most out for him was the win in August 2007.
“I’ve always been asked, ‘Have you ever had that perfect race car?,’” Busch said. “I don’t think any racecar driver will ever say they’ve had a perfect car.
“That 2007 race, though, I qualified outside pole, I was on the outside of Turn 1. I cleared the leader and started leading going through the tunnel turn. When that car hooked and cut and I stood back on the gas in Turn 3, I went, ‘Whoa. Don’t mess this up.’ I could just feel it. That put so much pressure on me for that 200-lap race. I was like, ‘Don’t screw this up.’ That’s how good that car was. It led 175 laps out of 200. The only laps we didn’t lead were due to pit cycles and pit sequences. That’s my most dominant car and my most favorite memory at Pocono.”
It has been a challenging season for Busch. Through 16 races, he has just one top-five and three top-10 finishes in the No. 1 Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
He did place sixth at Sonoma two weeks ago, ending a streak of 12 straight races finishing 13th or worse.
With nine races left until the playoffs start, Busch is hoping to gain some momentum. He is 18th in the standings, 63 points behind the 16th-place cutoff line.
“It’s been one of those years. It almost turned comical after our engine failure at Charlotte,” Busch said. “We’ve had this happen, that happen, jacks breaking, oil cooler at Talladega. It’s been wild. It was just nice to get a good solid finish under our belt at one of my favorite tracks, Sonoma; to have a smooth day with hardly any damage on the car, pit crew was solid. It proves we know how to do it, we just have to execute and find a little bit of that Lady Luck and make a run at these playoffs. We have (nine) weeks to try to get in.”
The doubleheader weekend at Pocono starts Friday with the ARCA Series General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 at 6 p.m. On Saturday, the NASCAR Trucks Series CRC Brakleen 150 is at noon, followed by the NASCAR Cup Series 325-mile race at 3 p.m. Then Sunday, the NASCAR Xfinity Series Pocono Green 225 is at noon and the Cup Series Explore The Pocono Mountains 350 is at 3:30 p.m.
Pocono Raceway is celebrating 50 years of racing on the 2.5-mile triangular track. It also is operating at full capacity after last year’s doubleheader was held without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was bonkers going back to the tracks without our fans and without that infield pre-race vibe,” Busch said. “Just simply driving up to a track during COVID and going to race on race day. Man, where is the soul of the sport? Where is everybody? The soul of our sport is the race fans. They make it happen for us. They are the most loyal in all of sports.
“To now see almost all the states, pretty much we’re going to be back to a standard protocol and have everybody back, I can’t wait. People have been locked in so much, it seems like that extra energy is coming out everywhere in all of sports. I’m looking forward to Pocono’s party in the infield on Saturday night, which I won’t be part of, but I will be able to hear it.”
During more than 30 years at The Times-Tribune, Scott has covered everything from high schools to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. His current beats include motor sports, local colleges, high school cross country and high school baseball. He also is a copy editor and page designer. His articles have won awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, Eastern Motorsports Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists Keystone Pro Chapter and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association Keystone Press. He also has been honored by the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League and the Minor League Football Alliance. In 2016, he was presented the Media Service Award by the Northeastern Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. A Long Island, New York, native, Scott graduated from the University of Scranton in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in communications. He lives in Peckville with his wife, Andrea, and daughters, Bridget and Emily. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9100, x5109; or @swalshTT on Twitter