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Penske makes it official: Kurt Busch is out

  Both now gone: Kurt Busch (R), and crew chief Steve Addington (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    By Mike Mulhern


   He's one of the most successful and talented drivers on the stock car tour, with more NASCAR Cup victories than all but four other active racers. But Kurt Busch heads into the Christmas off-season looking for a new job.
   Roger Penske Monday announced he and Busch have "reached a mutual agreement with driver Kurt Busch to end its driver/race team relationship, effective immediately."

   The terse statement follows tumultuous fallout from Busch's latest angry tirade, in the tour's Homestead, Fla., finale Nov. 20th, when his transmission broke early in the race.
   Pieces of that broken transmission apparently damaged Tony Stewart's car, and put the eventual series champion in a deep hole in the season's climactic event. When ESPN's Dr. Jerry Punch attempted to interview Busch in the garage (http://bit.ly/sULdnc ) , Busch was clearly displeased. Punch never got Busch on the air, but a fan in the garage caught the interaction for YouTube.
    In response, NASCAR fined Busch $50,000, and pointed out he'd had other recent run-ins with the media, most notable at Richmond, Va., Sept. 10th, when he had sharp confrontations with two journalists.
   Busch, whose volatile personality is well-known, had to sit out the final two races of the 2005 season after then-current employer Jack Roush decided Busch's run-in with a Phoenix area sheriff's deputy went too far.
   Busch, who won the 2004 NASCAR championship with Roush, had decided during the summer of 2005 to try to jump to the Penske camp. That led to a complicated driver-team shuffle that lasted for several weeks.

   Roger Penske: Kurt Busch just too volatile for The Captain (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Busch has been with Penske the past six years. This past season he was sponsored by Shell, in one of the sport's biggest sponsorships.
   Busch, until this season, had done a very good job of ameliorating his temperament. However an angry tirade at Richmond in April was clear indication of something changing. And midway through the playoffs crew chief Steve Addington decided to leave Busch at the end of the year, raising the anger level in the camp.
   What next for Busch and the Penske team is unclear. Several notable drivers are available for hire, including Brian Vickers, David Ragan and David Reutimann. However Shell is expected to play a significant role in the next move, and the list of potential drivers might be longer.
   Brad Keselowski, the other current Penske driver, has been a major success this season, winning three times and making a strong run for the championship.
    "The team will evaluate its options…while Busch will seek new opportunities with another race team," the statement said. 
   Penske himself said "I appreciate the victories that Kurt has brought Penske Racing and our sponsors over the past six years. 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."
    Busch, in the statement, said "I am grateful to Penske Racing for six very productive years. 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."
   Reaction to the Penske move was rather predictable.
   Kyle Petty says "I've defended him on every single tirade, with the way he's been portrayed in the media, and now his outburst toward Jerry Punch."
   But Petty adds "This is a business...When a driver's behavior bleeds over to the business side, then it becomes everybody's business. 
   "His firing shouldn't catch anybody off-guard.
   "I applaud Roger Penske for standing up for the integrity of Penske Racing...because I've said it before: Joe Gibbs hasn't done anything to Kyle Busch, as far as anyone publicly knows. 
    "Sometimes the car owner has to step up and make a call.
    "The message this sends is that just because you win races, you can't be a horse's rear.
     "Winning is good; but you not only have to win, but you have to be a winning driver off the track as well."
    And Petty had a warning: "The impact on his career could be huge...
    "What sponsor will want to take a chance on him again?"
    And Jimmy Spencer, who had his run-ins with Busch remember, says "Kurt is a hell of a driver...but he thinks he's above everyone.
    "You can't treat people the way has. Kurt has disgraced NASCAR and his sponsors.
    "...It will be hard for another top-notch team to pick him up, without him demonstrating a complete overhaul and true remorse."


  Kurt Busch and girlfriend Patricia Driscoll, in Las Vegas for NASCAR's annual awards banquet (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Now a has been, he should not have been so arrogant and bitten the hands that fed him. As they saying goes, "Shut up and drive." A a businessman and highly paid athlete, image is clearly important, if not for good manners and integrity, at least for economic survival. What a spoiled brat.

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