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Kurt Busch's future may be very murky, but NASCAR marches on

Kurt Busch's future may be very murky, but NASCAR marches on

Plenty of time for practice this week on Pocono's new asphalt (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    By Mike Mulhern

   POCONO, Pa.
   Kurt Busch is on suspension this week, and when he returns to the NASCAR tour next week, when his suspension ends, team owner James Finch says it's going to be on a week-to-week deal.    
   Finch has David Reutimann in his Chevy for Sunday's Pocono 400, and Finch seems less than enthusiastic in his support of Busch. And Busch's future appears cloudy at best.
   If Busch can't make a go of it with Finch, it may be time to start searching for another ride.
   Brian Vickers is another option for Finch; but Vickers is running the 24 Hours of Lemans this month.
   Finch says he's laying down the law to Busch: "Quit wrecking the cars. Get a good finish. Be nice to people.
    "That's not real hard to do."
   Finch is running this season without a major sponsor, and he says Busch's antics are "affecting me.
   "If I can't get a sponsor, I can't keep running without a sponsor."
  While Finch certainly has options in replacing Busch, Busch's own options appear very limited. Joe Gibbs, who has had his share of difficult drivers, says he's not at all interested in Busch.

   NASCAR legend Cotton Owens (L), with engine builder extraordinare Waddell Wilson (C) and another legendary car owner Bud Moore (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Pocono's new asphalt will certainly change the game. It's the first time in many years that drivers have had new asphalt here, and during Wednesday's opening round of testing Mark Martin led the 36 drivers at 175.380 mph, much quicker than Kasey Kahne's track record, set back in 2004, at 172.533 mph.
    The purpose of several extra days of testing is to try to put some rubber down in the corners and widen the groove. "It is extremely narrow," Martin says. "The good thing is when you get out of it, it isn't like ice. If you got out of the groove at Phoenix, it was like driving on ice."
   Clint Bowyer, Martin's teammate, called the grip "amazing. We are going faster, but it doesn't feel a whole lot faster."
   The grip is to be expected with new asphalt, and it could make the action only one-lane wide in the high-speed first turn.
   The new pavement also could change the aerodynamic game considerably, because the cars aren't expected to bounce around nearly as much.

    NASCAR won't have the only drivers on the track; ARCA drivers are to race Saturday, and those drivers run not on Goodyears but rather on Hoosiers.

   This 400 kicks off a new NASCAR TV package, TNT's six-race deal.  And the really good news is Wally Dallenbach is back, working with Kyle Petty and Adam Alexander.

  David Reutimann: what can he do in James Finch's Chevy? And where's Kurt Busch this weekend? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   When it comes to judging Pocono, Denny Hamlin is probably the best to ask, because he's been so dominant here.
   The new asphalt, Hamlin predicts, "is going to be pretty treacherous.  
    "Pretty much every new surface is very treacherous for the first at least three or four years, because we have to run such a hard tire.  
    "Pocono will be no different, from what I hear from the guys that tested. There was a tire that was pretty good and comfortable, but Goodyear thought it was wearing a little too much, so they're going to go with probably a harder tire that doesn't wear out."
    And Darian Grubb, Hamlin's crew chief, says it remains to be see "how the track evolves" through the race week.

   For a guy who's already won twice this season, Brad Keselowski hasn't seemed that much a factor at most races lately, for some reason.
   But then with wins at Bristol and Talladega, and with the near certainty of finishing top-20 in the regular season, Keselowski could probably coast into the playoffs from here.
   Team owner Roger Penske, now with Dodge but changing over to Ford for 2013, hasn't said much about his 2013 Ford project.
   Keselowski's playbook for the summer could become clearer here this week, because he won at this track last August.
   A crash at Daytona and engine problems at Las Vegas and Texas may have the team a bit gun-shy.

   Tony Stewart explains a lap around the 'old' Pocono for reference: "Turn one was probably the easiest of the three; you drove it in deep, and then tried to float the car through the corner.
    "You went down the backstretch and into the tunnel turn, and it was basically one lane, flat and very line-sensitive.
    "Then the short chute into turn three, a big, long corner, and also very line-sensitive. It was very important to get through the last corner well, so you weren’t bogged down when you started down that long (front) straightaway."

   Jimmie Johnson, who has won two of the last three Sprint Cup tour events, insists it's too early to start thinking about the playoffs. But maybe it's not.
   With fast new asphalt here and next week at Michigan, Jim Downing, who helped create the now-required HANS – head and neck safety system – that has saved so many lives over the past 10 years, reminds us of how important the HANS can be:
   Downing, a five-time sports car champion, just survived a frightening crash himself at Mid-Ohio. He came out of it with only two compressed discs (T-7 and T-11), and he credits the HANS for no more serious injuries when his car got airborne in the crash. "First time in 30 years I've been upside down in a race car," Downing, 70, said.
   The HANS became mandatory in NASCAR and most other major racing series following a series of deadly crashes because of basilar skull fractures, including the 2001 death of stock car legend Dale Earnhardt at Daytona.

   Also on tap this weekend is the Indy-car tour stop at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, a place that has provided some of the most exciting Indy-car races ever. Making this particular event more prominent is that it comes only two weeks after one of the greatest Indy 500s in history….and that it will be the tour's first stop at a high-banked oval since the horrific crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last fall that killed Dan Wheldon.
   It also comes one week after the bizarre Belle Isle race in Detroit, where the asphalt literally came up in chunks and strips. That course is to be completely repaved for next year's race.


As hard as it would be on Kurt, I think Finch

As hard as it would be on Kurt, I think Finch needs to move on without him. I pretty much think that James had hopes of some type of sponsorships having Kurt in the car, well the chances of that happening now are even slimmer. Besides, Kurt\'s mouthing at the team, as he is well known for, just makes him a liability no matter how good he is holding a wheel. I simply don\'t see where James has any positives in keeping Kurt. He certainly hasn\'t shown any real appreciation or respect for James team or for James. Kurt has become a self made liability and it\'s just sad.

Kurt Busch

I wonder how the Busch boys' parents feel about all this. Do they wonder where they went wrong in raising them?? Good article.

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