Now to put this matter to rest by examining an article posted by a most trustworthy NASCAR “pundit” of sorts who’s posts may be found at www.jayski.com.
Penske Racing officials are meeting Monday to determine the future of driver #22-Kurt Busch. Penske officials were contacted by ESPN.com on Sunday, but would not confirm or deny the meeting over Busch’s status, while the Charlotte Observer reported that Busch has been fired. Busch has been involved in several behavior incidents on the track this season, including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Busch made an obscene hand gesture leaving the track after his transmission failure early in the race. He also had a profanity-laced tirade at ESPN’s Dr. Jerry Punch and his camera crew in the garage moments later, which went viral on YouTube. NASCAR later penalized Busch $50,000 for the two incidents. Penske officials, along with team sponsors Shell Pennzoil, publicly reprimanded Busch afterward. Sources confirmed that Shell Pennzoil officials have spoken with team owner Roger Penske and expressed concerns about Busch continuing as the driver. Penske spokesman Bud Denker and Walt Czarnecki, the executive vice president of Penske Corportation, said they will stand by their comment made after Busch was fined by NASCAR that they will not comment further until their internal review is complete. Kurt Busch had an earlier incident with reporters this season at Richmond in September, the final event before the Chase started. He had to be restrained from a NASCAR.com reporter on pit road. Busch also tore another reporter’s interview transcript in half after being questioned about recorded comments that he denied making. Last week in Las Vegas, Busch said he was seeing a sports psychologist to deal with his anger issues.(ESPN)
Speculation points to David Ragan as the leading candidate for the job. Ragan spent the 2011 season with Roush Fenway Racing, but his future has been in doubt since the team lost sponsorship for next season. He earned his first career Sprint Cup victory this season, at Daytona International Speedway. Other candidates for the job include David Reutimann and Brian Vickers two drivers who drove in the Sprint Cup Series this past season but are without a ride for 2012 and Sam Hornish Jr., who has previously driven for Penske at the Sprint Cup level.(FoxSports)(12-4-2011)
Penske Racing announced today that it has reached a mutual agreement with driver Kurt Busch to end its driver/race team relationship, effective immediately. The team will evaluate its options for the driver of the #22 Sprint Cup Series car in the future while Busch will seek new opportunities with another race team. “I appreciate the victories that Kurt has brought Penske Racing and our sponsors over the past six years,” said Roger Penske. “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.”
“I am grateful to Penske Racing for six very productive years,” said Busch. “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.”(Penske Racing)
David Ragan has been released by Roush Fenway Racing and Ford to pursue other oppurtunities. Supposedly he was in line to run the #51 Chevy in 2012, but now hearing he will sign a one-year deal to run the #22 Dodge for Penske.(12-5-2011)
Penske was out of the country and unavailable to comment directly. But Bud Denker, a senior vice president for Penske Corporation, said the split was best for all parties. “Kurt had some concern with our performance,” Denker told ESPN.com. “Obviously, we had concerns with his on and off the track behavior. We agreed to take the high road for both of us. We agreed that separating at this time was best for all parties, including Kurt and the sponsors.” Denker would not comment on whether Penske Racing had to meet any financial obligations to Busch, who had several years left on his contract. But he said “we have no further obligations, financially or contractually.” Denker said while Shell Pennzoil was consulted in the decision, “it was ultimately our decision.” “It’s important for people to understand the nature of what we’ve done,” Denker said. “It’s a mutual separation. Kurt came to the conclusion and we have as well that it’s time to move on. Kurt has been a terrific driver for us. He’s a friend. We have been working with problems and issues in the past. It’s well documented by everyone. As we looked at 2012 and beyond it was time to move on based on that incident at Homestead.” Denker said it was a difficult decision, noting Busch has done a great job promoting sponsors for Penske Racing.
One of the criteria Shell Pennzoil had when it signed with Penske Racing last season was to have a championship-caliber driver. That prompted the move of Busch from the #2 Miller Lite car to the #22. Denker said Busch’s replacement “may not be a championship driver right now,” but said Shell is behind anybody they choose. He acknowledged that David Ragan, who won at Daytona in June, might be a possibility. Ragan remains under contract with Roush Fenway Racing, but he doesn’t have a ride for 2012 because he lost sponsor UPS. Initial inquiries, multiple sources said, have been made. “It could be David, it could be others,” Denker said. “We have not started that process yet.”(ESPN)(12-5-2011)
- David Ragan was given his release from Roush Fenway Racing on Monday, opening the door for him to possibly replace 2004 Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch at Penske Racing. Ragan said he asked for his release Monday morning, after learning that Busch and Penske Racing had mutually agreed to split. He then talked to Penske Racing president Tim Cindric to express an interest in the vacant #22 ride. “I want to be in consideration for that car,” Ragan said. Ragan said he had been disappointed when UPS informed Roush Fenway during the season that it was not returning to the #6 car as a sponsor. “Sometimes crazy things happen for a reason. I feel I’ve got a good shot to have a sit-down talk with the guys at Penske,” Ragan said. “We haven’t discussed that, but I have reached out to them and hopefully later on in the next week or two we’ll have more to talk about.” Although Ragan didn’t have a Sprint Cup Series ride with RFR for 2012, he remained under contract until he was given the release. The move now clears him to pursue the Penske opening, as well as other potential vacancies in Sprint Cup and the Nationwide Series.
Penske Racing executive Bud Denker acknowledged that Ragan “and others” would be considered to replace Busch, whose behavior on and off the track led to the split. He did not give a timetable, but indicated it could be several weeks, as the process has just begun and sponsor Shell Pennzoil will have to approve the winning candidate. Others drivers who might be considered include David Reutimann and Brian Vickers. Reutimann was released from Michael Waltrip Racing, while Vickers was a part of Red Bull Racing, which is folding its NASCAR operation. Denker said that Sam Hornish Jr. will not be under consideration, as Penske wants the former IndyCar Series champion to focus on a full Nationwide Series run in 2012 before returning to Cup. Hornish drove full time in the Cup Series for Penske from 2008 through 2010, recording only two top-5 finishes and never finishing better than 28th in points.(ESPN)(12-5-2011)