By admin | September 27, 2012
By Richard Allen
With the recent news that Kurt Busch has signed on to drive for Furniture Row Racing in 2013, it would seem like the appropriate time to look back and see what he accomplished while driving for Phoenix Racing in 2012. Prior to this season, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion had only piloted cars for the highly financed teams of Roush Fenway Racing and Penske Racing. However, due to a number of issues to have surfaced last season, the talented but volatile driver found himself with few options coming into this current year.
When the dust settled in the aftermath of a video taped tirade toward an ESPN reporter and cameraman during the last race of the season in 2011, Phoenix Racing was one of the few teams that would take on Busch as its chauffer. It was said by some, including the primary parties involved, that the relationship would prove beneficial for both.
Busch, it was reasoned, would be more relaxed as he took a step away from the high-pressure world of the power teams for a season or two while Phoenix would have a high profile driver who could show what their relatively small operation was truly capable of.
So, what did Kurt Busch actually do for the James Finch owned Phoenix Racing team?
As a few thought might at least be plausible, Busch could give Phoenix a shot at winning a race. Although taking on the mega-teams would have been virtually impossible on a weekly basis, a one time checkered flag seemed a possibility on a restrictor plate track or a road course, especially considering the team received some assistance from Hendrick Motorsports. But that was not the case as the team that had won at Talladega back in 2009 with Brad Keselowski has gone winless so far in 2012.
Even if no wins came, it was believed by many that Busch could elevate the team to higher overall finishes than previously experienced. So far in 27 starts, Busch has an average finish of 24.6 with one top-5 and two top-10 results.
In 2011, driver Landon Cassill had an average finish of 27.6 with no top-10s while driving for Phoenix Racing. Boris Said, Bill Elliott and Mike Bliss also competed for the team with no outstanding finishes being recorded by any one of those pilots.
And more, Busch has crashed on multiple occasions in 2012. Of the five races in which the #51 car was not running at the finish, three of those have ‘crashed’ listed as the reason for dropping out. There were also cars wrecked in Daytona and other tracks which were repaired and sent back out to finish multiple laps behind the race winners.
The not-so-relaxed Busch was suspended for one race this season after a post-race incident on pit road in Charlotte and a tirade directed toward a reporter the next week in Dover.
And perhaps most importantly for a small team such as this, no lasting sponsorship was found as a result of having a high profile driver in their car. As a matter of fact, there have been very few races this season in which the car had anything other than the Phoenix team name or completely blank quarter panels.
Purse money winnings have seen little change over last year with Busch driving(David Reutimann drove the one race in which Busch was suspended) opposed to the four who handled the chores in 2011.
All in all, the addition of Kurt Busch as the driver of the #51 Phoenix Racing car was a gamble that was probably worth taking. However, in the end the gamble did not really pay off. After Busch is gone this will be a team that is no better off than when he came, and perhaps even worse off if more money was spent in an attempt to raise the level of competitiveness.
So what did Kurt Busch actually do for Phoenix Racing? Ultimately, not that much.
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