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Kurt Busch: At the crossroads

  Kurt Busch (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


   Kurt Busch says he's looking for 'a fresh start' to his racing career, now that he and team owner Roger Penske have decided to split.
   Just what might that mean for him?
   Is this the end of the line for Kurt Busch?
   Has stock car racing's 2004 tour champion run out of options on the NASCAR tour?

   At only 33, and thus perhaps some of his best years ahead of him, the talented but volatile driver certainly isn't down for the count.  He's got too much going for him...like more Sprint Cup tour wins than all but four other active drivers. And that championship.
   Who wants to take the gamble? What $20 million a year corporate sponsor would be willing to pick up Busch?
   Then again remember with his September win at Dover Busch was positioned for a playoff run at the title...until that crash at Talladega three weeks later.
   Busch, on his Facebook page, is letting fans weigh in on his next move.
   And Busch isn't the only out-of-work driver looking for a job. He'll have competition from Brian Vickers, David Ragan and David Reutimann -- three men who, though they might not have the numbers to match with Busch, have him covered when it comes to being sponsor-friendly.
   It's mid-December and NASCAR is still making headlines, now two weeks after the season finale.
   Not only Busch, but others too -- Michael Waltrip just announced the expected move of hiring Brian Pattie as crew chief for his newest driver Clint Bowyer.
   And then there's this odd piece of paparazzi work on Danica Patrick, vacationing in Hawaii, before the start of perhaps her toughest season yet:  http://bit.ly/tx7TdJ
   But Roger Penske's decision to drop Kurt Busch is certainly the biggest headline.
   Penske is now looking for a new driver, and David Ragan could be at the top of the list. Ragan won Daytona in July but who lost his full-time ride with Jack Roush when sponsor UPS decided to back down for 2012.
    Considering the sport's top franchises:
   -- Team owner Jack Roush? He's already cutting back from four teams to three, and he's the guy Busch left back in 2005. Not likely. And the rest of the Ford camp pretty much relies on Roush's okay for any major moves.
   -- Team owner Richard Childress is also cutting back from four to three. Still Childress has never shied away from dealing with contentious drivers, though he would probably need the okay from his current drivers before trying to cut any deal with Busch.
   -- Team owner Rick Hendrick has the four-team maximum and no room for a newcomer, though James Finch, who runs Chevys with some engineering support from Hendrick, could be an option.
   -- Team owner Chip Ganassi has his hands full with Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray, who both went winless this season.
   -- Team owner Joe Gibbs does have hopes eventually for a fourth Cup team, but his operation has been ragged lately. Still, pairing the Busch brothers could be an intriguing option. Gibbs has never shied away from volatile drivers, to put it mildly.
   -- Team owner Michael Waltrip has been working the market hard the past several months, trying to turn things around. And there could be an opening there, depending on what Toyota officials might think.

   Or maybe Kurt Busch should try what Tony Stewart has made work -- running his own team.
   Certainly there are plenty of crewmen looking for work, and even whole race teams ready to go, like those two Red Bull teams.
   The next move may be up to Busch himself.

Start his own race team? Who

Start his own race team? Who would work for someone who mistreats people the way he does - then again, folks gotta pay the bills. Unlikeable, irritable and unemployed is no way to go through life.....

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I think the best option is to

I think the best option is to just take a nice long vacation next year. 23 wins, 1 championship, 50 million in winnings is something most drivers pray for. Even if he never races again he has a great record and is financially secure.

He changes the old Nascar addage of "We don't need you, You need us". Instead it's more like "We don't need you, You don't need us".

The sport has changed. Even a driver like Reutimann doesn't need Nascar. He's probably pretty secure financially too. They do it because they love the sport, at the Cup level. It's hard to try and control a sport with carrot and stick tactics when the drivers already have a warehouse full of carrots.

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