Ah the long awaited news…
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (Dec. 22, 2011) – “I just want to get back to having fun in the racecar.”
Those were the words spoken by Kurt Busch just a few days after the season-ending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Banquet in Las Vegas. Today, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion is well on his way toward that simple goal as he’s teamed with Phoenix Racing to run the full 2012 Sprint Cup schedule.
“I’m very happy to join Phoenix Racing and after entertaining a lot of quality offers, there’s no better place for me,” said Busch, winner of 24 Sprint Cup races, as well as the 2010 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, the 2011 Gatorade Duel and the 2011 Budweiser Shootout. “We’re going to run the full schedule together, and we’re going to have fun doing it.
“It’s going to be old-school racing, where we show up, race hard and go for the win. And if we don’t win, we’ll go back to the shop, work hard and do it all over again next week. That’s the way we all started racing, and it’s great to get back to that.”
James Finch, owner of Phoenix Racing, celebrated his 20th year as a NASCAR team owner in 2011. His Spartanburg, S.C.-based team has won 13 NASCAR races, the most recent of which was the April 2009 Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
“All we want to do is win,” Finch said. “Winning is why I’ve been in racing for as long as I have, but NASCAR is a very competitive sport, and winning – especially at the Sprint Cup level – is hard. But now with Kurt Busch as our driver, we have a shot to win every week. He’s a past champion and he’s proven he can win everywhere. Our sponsors are looking forward to Kurt representing their brands.
“We have excellent equipment and a hard-working group of guys who want that trophy at the end of every race. Kurt’s the guy who can deliver it to them.”
Busch will drive the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet Impala in 2012, and his first race will be the non-points Budweiser Shootout at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway where he is the defending winner.
“James Finch has always had pretty stout cars for the restrictor-plate races and I know we’ll be very competitive at Daytona,” Busch said. “We’ll participate in the test down there in January to get a good handle on our Daytona 500 car, but also to win another Budweiser Shootout.
“Christmas came early for me this year, and I honestly can’t wait for the season to begin.”
The 33-year-old Busch has made the Chase for the Sprint Cup six times since the inception of the Chase in 2004, when he won the series title. His Sprint Cup championship followed the International Race of Champions (IROC) title he won in 2003. And before joining the Sprint Cup ranks in late 2000, Busch was the 1999 NASCAR Southwest Tour champion, where at age 21, he was the youngest driver to win that series’ championship. Originally from Las Vegas, Busch now makes his home in Mooresville, N.C.
Kurt Busch will drive the No. 51 Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing in 2012.
Busch put the handshake deal together with team owner James Finch on Wednesday night.
“I went to the shop, and on the Christmas tree was a sign that read, ‘All we want from Santa is a winning driver,’ ” Finch said. “We will be at the Daytona test next month and start with the Shootout.”
The decision comes just weeks after Busch left Penske Racing in a mutual parting. Upon his departure, Busch said he “wanted racing to be fun again.”
If Busch was looking to combine “fun” with racing, no owner can deliver on that promise better than Finch. Couple that with the benefit of Hendrick Motorsports cars and engines, and Busch could be the driver who puts Phoenix Racing on the map.
The 2004 Sprint Cup champion has 24 wins, including two in each of the past three years, and has qualified for six Chase for the Sprint Cups. Busch has won a race in each of the past 10 seasons.
Said Finch: “I told Kurt, ‘I won’t fire you, and you won’t quit. We’ll do whatever it takes — roll in the mud if we have to to win. I’ve worked construction all my life just so I could race and have a good time. I’ve worked with iron workers, I worked with construction workers, so working with a driver is not going to be a problem.
“As I said earlier, all we want to do is win”.
Finch has been active in Sprint Cup racing since 1990. Phoenix Racing has one victory and three top fives in 191 starts with multiple drivers. The lone win came in April 2009 at Talladega Superspeedway with Brad Keselowski behind the wheel. Nick Harrison will continue to serve as crew chief.
Landon Cassill most recently piloted the No. 51 for Finch last season. Finch finished 30th in owner points.
Busch, 33, finished 11th in the Sprint Cup standings this year.
Hopefully this works out as well as they are hoping for. It’s good that Kurt will still get to compete at the Sprint Cup level.
This story took forever to play out but now it’s finally reached a resolution.
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