UPDATE: “Legal counsel for Kurt Busch says: report on firing “is not accurate” and urges “promptly and responsibly check your facts for accuracy with Bud Denker of Penske Corporation.” – Jenna Fryer
Yay! This means Kurt still might have a ride!
For the second time in his Sprint Cup Series career, an off-track issue has cost Kurt Busch his job.
Busch will not return next season to drive Penske Racing’s No. 22 Dodge, multiple sources confirmed to the Observer and ThatsRacin.com on Sunday night.
An official announcement of Busch’s departure from the organization is expected from Penske on Monday.
Just over a week ago NASCAR fined Busch $50,000 for the use of an obscene gesture and a profanity-laced tirade directed toward a media member during the Cup series finale race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The incident with ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch, which took place in the garage after Busch’s car broke its transmission, was caught on video and posted on YouTube.
At the time, Penske Racing officials issued a statement saying they were reviewing the matter internally.
Asked if he could confirm Busch as the driver of the No. 22 team in 2012, Penske spokesman Jonathan Gibson referred to its previous statement and said the organization would have no further comment at this time.
In November 2005, less than one year after winning his first Cup series championship, Busch was fired by Roush Fenway Racing after he was cited for criminal reckless in Avondale, Ariz., in what police described as an alcohol-related incident.
Busch sat out the remaining two races of the 2005 season. He began driving for team owner Roger Penske in the 2006 season.
Since joining Penske, Busch has won 10 races and his highest finish in the series standings was fourth in 2009.
This decision comes very late in the year and puts both Busch and Penske in a difficult position.
There are no quality rides currently available for next season for Busch to pursue, and no drivers with a resume on the track similar to Busch’s presumably available for Penske to hire.
Several drivers who competed in the Cup series this season remain without rides, including David Ragan, Brian Vickers and David Reutimann.
More Fuel To The Fire
Charlotte.com reported tonight that Kurt Busch has been fired by Penske Racing following an obscenity-laced tirade in the season-ending NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In that race, Busch broke a transmission early on and afterwards yelled at ESPN pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch, who was waiting to interview Busch. “Can you get this motherf—-r out of my face?” Busch said when Punch attempted to ask him a question. Punch later left after more obscenities were directed towards him. Busch subsequently was fined $50,000 by NASCAR for his actions.
Charlotte.com reported the formal announcement will come Monday. E-mails placed to Penske Racing Sunday night by SPEED.com were not immediately returned.
Homestead merely was the latest in a long list of controversies this season for Busch, who blew up at his crew and former Penske engineer Tom German at Richmond in May, in another obscenity heavy tirade on the team radio.
“I’m sorry, our day was done when Tom German decided he was in charge,” Busch told his team on the radio.
At Richmond in September, Busch had to be physically restrained from going after NASCAR.com reporter Joe Menzer, who asked Busch about an on-track incident with Jimmie Johnson. In his post-race interview a few minutes later, he had another angry confrontation, this one with Associated Press reporter Jenna Fryer. At that time, Busch walked over to Fryer and tore up a transcript of a prior interview.
Busch has had other incidents in his past. In 2005, while he was the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, he was fired by Jack Roush following a traffic stop outside Phoenix International Raceway.
According to the police report filed after the incident, Busch told the police, “You guys are a joke, punks. Aren’t you supposed to be directing traffic somewhere?”
Among the other statements Busch made during the stop, according to the police report: “You’re only doing this because you’re a Jeff Gordon fan,” and when asked to take a sobriety test, “I’m not doing this gay-ass test.” Busch eventually pled the case down to a misdemeanor traffic offense, after agreeing to a hefty donation for youth athletic equipment in the Phoenix area.
In 2002 at Michigan International Speedway, Busch had a confrontation with Jimmy Spencer, during which Busch allegedly told Spencer, “I’ll f–k up your family.” Spencer, who was walking away at the time, walked back to Busch’s car and backhanded him across the face, breaking his nose.
At Daytona in Feb. 2008, Tony Stewart and Busch were summoned to the NASCAR hauler after contact during practice for the Budweiser Shootout. During that meeting, Stewart allegedly punched Busch after Busch called Stewart fat and made remarks about Stewart’s haircut.
Remember, Penske has not released an official announcement yet. That won’t be til tomorrow.