Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Kurt Busch, Robby Gordon and David Ragan....and all is now looking good

 Kurt Busch, braced for an unusual season ahead. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   James Finch and Kurt Busch might seem at the opposite ends of the NASCAR spectrum.
   Finch, ultra-cool, laid back, a veteran stock car team owner who has fun with it all.
   Busch, ever tense, tightly pressed, who even when he's having fun seems ill at ease with it.
   But both are outspoken, and now the two are teammates.
   And if you're looking for an upset special, this is it.

   After stints with mega-team owners Roger Penske and Jack Roush, with hundreds of men on staff, Busch finds himself now on one of the smallest Sprint Cup teams in the garage.
   But Finch and his guys do know how to have fun. And that should be a big plus for Busch.
   "I've always been guilty of doing things the hard way -- working hard instead of smart I guess," Busch concedes.
   "And these guys, we're understaffed but yet they have such a big heart; they're just like me. 
    "So getting back to old school racing, having fun with it. The pressure is not there. 
    "But when we go week to week -- to Phoenix, Vegas, Bristol -- we'll start to learn more about the cars and where we stack up. 
    "It's not going to take winning to make me happy.
    "Right now it's just going to the track, having fun, and at the end of the day...like the first day when I was at the shop -- Finch was there, and we all looked at each other like we were done talking, and it was quarter to 4:00.  I said 'Where's your beer cooler?' 
    "We cracked open a couple beers and started chit-chatting the rest of the day, fun stories. 
    "That's what this is going to be about for me in 2012. Just a ton of excitement.
    "The guys are together on this -- it's going to be they're looking at me to grow and to learn, and I'm looking at them to grow and to learn.
     "So it's going to be a lot of fun this year."



    James Finch (L), here congratulating Brad Keselowsk in on that Talladega upset, is a fun-loving NASCAR team owner, and a 20-year stock car veteran (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Busch, who lives in Charlotte, has been commuting to the team's Spartanburg, S.C., shop. "It's about an hour and a half from my house, so it's almost therapeutic driving there and driving back, with the time you get to think about things..."
    And since his Homestead blowup, the concluding moment in a tumultuous season, Busch has had plenty to think about -- the unexpected split with team owner Roger Penske has put Busch, the 2004 tour champion, on a career hot seat. How well Busch handles himself this season could be critical to his future in this sport.
    At the moment Busch is trying to mend fences, make new friends, enjoy life a little more, and become accustomed to a team owner who doesn't have the unlimited financial resources Penske has.
    "All the big programs and teams have quantities of bolts, pieces, things...and we've got one of everything," Busch says wryly.
   "We've got the one seat we were getting dialed in, and I wanted to change the brackets. But the car had to be on the hauler in a couple hours, and there was no time to make brackets quick enough...."
    So Busch wound up testing at Daytona in the seat layout that Landon Cassill, rather smaller, used last season. Busch said jammed in he felt "like the Green Giant shoved in his little seat."


    Bob Jenkins, restauranteur turned NASCAR team owner, now has two Davids to put on the track against the sport's Goliaths (Photo: Autosport)

    But this may be just the type of bootstrap operation that may serve Busch best right now. And he calls it "a fun atmosphere.
   "This is exactly what I needed."
    Busch knows he's going to be in crosshairs as the season opens. "There's going to be the attention, good, bad or indifferent, no matter what we do these first five or 10 weeks," Busch says.
    And he says he's not just bringing his driver bag along. "I've got to bring a briefcase. I've been working 10 jobs, it seems like, going from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day since the (December) banquet.
    "We have our pull-down rig at the shop, a couple years old, cost $80,000. Past teams I've been with, they have this same piece of equipment, it's $250,000, built by a big company somewhere, and it takes 10 people to run the software. 
    "We're getting the same job done with a calculator and a tape measure and this pull down rig.
    "It's just that fun of "Keep it simple, stupid." We're going to be just fine going through. 
    "And we might exceed our expectations....but we're going to have a darned good time while we're doing it."

    Busch came close to signing with Ford's Richard Petty. "But the contracts just didn't align on where they were and where I wanted to be," Busch says.
    He also talked with Michael Waltrip and Richard Childress.
    The deal with Finch, though, may be just the right one.
    "To take a step back for me personally and look at all of this, this is what I need," he says.
     "I've got to understand what it takes to be a competitive driver, and to harness that fire in my belly the right way.
     "When things are going smoothly, this is a tough freight train to stop.  When things are going rough, that's what I have to polish up on...and knock the rough edges off."

Robby Gordon, after winning the final stage of the grueling two-week Dakar (Photo: Robby Gordon)



   Robby Gordon certainly knows how to make a splash.
   And he's been in top form down in South America the past few days, driving what the media dubbed 'the orange beast' in what some describe as 'smash-mouth racing.'
   Outlandish is something Robby Gordon does quite well. And, no, the NASCAR/off-road veteran didn't win the grueling two-week Dakar Rally through Argentina, Chile and Peru, but he made quite an impression nevertheless.
   Gordon made one of his strongest bids ever in the legendary race. After winning the ninth stage last week, Gordon was only five minutes behind the leader, nine-time Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel.
   However the next day Gordon drew the ire of some officials, who questioned the legality of some parts of his Hummer. The officials wanted to disqualify Gordon at that point, but he quickly appealed, and he was allowed to continue. Gordon rallied to win Friday's stage and win Sunday's concluding stage.
   But other problems on the course dropped Gordon far behind Peterhansel at the end, and Gordon wound up fifth overall, some three hours down.


   David Ragan, one of the sport's good guys, still up-and-coming, now with a team Ford team (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

  David Ragan, idled on the sidelines since the end of the season, landed a new ride Monday, with Ford owner Bob Jenkins, who runs the operation as Front Row Motorsports, now pairing Ragan with David Gilliland in the two-car Ford team.
   Sponsorship, though, is still up in the air.
   Ragan won last summer's Daytona 400, his first tour win; but sponsor UPS decided not to renew, leaving Ragan looking.
   This will be Regan's sixth season on the Sprint Cup tour, and the 26-year-old Georgian has had a ragged career, though last season he showed more promise. He finished last season 23rd in the standings, which gives him a guaranteed spot in the Daytona 500. That's better than Gilliland did last year -- 30th in the final standings, after opening with an intriguing third in the Daytona 500.
   What Jenkins will have to offer this season is perhaps the bigger question than Ragan.
   Ragan says Jenkins' teams have "made great progress in the last few years, and I look forward to helping them advance to the next level. I think the team appreciates what I can bring to the table, and it's a good opportunity for both of us."
   The deal keeps Ragan on the Ford roster.
   Gilliland, who has driven for Jenkins two years now, says "We've gotten better year to year, and even week to week."
   Jenkins, a restaurateur heading into his fourth year as a full-time Cup owner, says he's "committed to building a competitive race team...and adding David Ragan is another giant step in the right direction. I feel 2012 is really going to be our year to step up to the next level. I now have two Davids to engage Goliath..."

Kurt Who?

Kurt who?????

David Ragan's points

I believe I am correct in saying that David Ragan's 23rd place finish in points last year stays with the number 6 car, and does not guarantee him a spot in the 2012 Daytona 500. He may very well be in the 500 based on points earned by David Gilliland in his new ride from last year, but not based on his 23rd place finish in the 6 car last year.

Ragan vs. Kvapil

I'm not a Travis Kvapil fan (I think keeping Gilliland was a better choice than Travis) but i'm hard-pressed to believe David Ragan is in any way a "Step Forward" for the team. On driving talent and resume it would seem a push at absolute best. Maybe the leap forward is Roush insight and better chance of landing a sponsor. But i thought their deal with Roush already allowed them access to more technical data than Ragan would bring. So i'm just not sure how this is a leap forward. If Ragan couldn't manage better than the bottom 5 points positions of fully sponsored cars last year (in top notch equipment) anything better than around 30th this year (with the greatly weaker field) would be a huge surprise. I sure hope I'm wrong with this...but just don't see this as a Huge Leap for Front Row...seems more like a stagger...Shuffle Forward a little then shuffle right back

You are on the money

You are on the money Bob.

David Ragan has had 6 years to prove himself and all he acomplished was 1 easy win at Daytona. Daytona and Talladega are the two tracks where anyone can win in any car and it takes little to no talent to win at plate tracks. The only way Front Row will win is at Ezdega or Eztona.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com