Opinion: Busch Faces Long Odds
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on December 23, 2011 | 4:51 P.M. EST
The hiring of Busch is a no lose proposition for Finch. (Photo: Getty Images)
Kurt Busch looks to put the fun back in his racing career by joining Phoenix Racing, but it remains to be seen how long the laughs will keep coming.
There’s no better owner in the Sprint Cup Series garage to have fun working with than Phoenix owner James Finch. He’s a throwback to the sport’s days of yesteryear when NASCAR wasn’t as much of a business as it is today and owners were a colorful group in it more for the love of racing than the paycheck that came with the checkered flag.
Now make no mistake that Finch is competitive and wants to win. For a single car operation that operates on a fraction of the budget as some of NASCAR’s powerhouse organizations, Phoenix Racing at times has competitive cars on the track.
Finch’s group especially has shined on restrictor plate tracks and the No. 51 Chevrolet was near the front of the field many times in last season’s pair of visits to Daytona and Talladega. Phoenix gets its cars from the Hendrick Motorsports stable so there’s no question about the quality of the team’s equipment.
Last year Landon Cassill piloted the No. 51 for the majority of the campaign when Finch’s team finished 30th in owner points.
Busch has already stated he sees no reason why that finish can’t be cut in half and heck, if you can get to fifteenth in the standings why not shoot for a few spots higher and sneak your way into the Chase.
The hiring of Busch is a no lose proposition for Finch, who with all due respect to Cassill raised the talent level of his driver tremendously in one fell swoop. Despite his emotional baggage and controversial reputation, Busch brings 24 career Sprint Cup wins and a series championship with him to this party.
And at times it will be a party at Phoenix Racing. Finch knows how to have a good time and Busch seems to be aching for a way to infuse enjoyment back into his racing career.
There will be some of that, especially early on when there’s a pretty good chance Busch and the No. 51 will turn some heads during Speedweeks in Daytona. The nature of plate competition, the crap shoot of racing at “the World Center of Racing” and Busch’s ability behind the wheel in what will be fairly stout equipment in February will be enough to at least put them in the mix.
But Daytona is a long way from the grind of the rest of the season.
Once the euphoria of doing well at Daytona subsides, all teams have to face the fact that what lies ahead on the rest of the schedule is in no way, shape or form anything like Speedweeks.
The bread and butter of the Sprint Cup season is held on intermediate and mid-sized tracks like the Atlanta, Michigan, Texas, Charlotte and Chicagoland’s of the world. Those are the places teams like Phoenix have struggled and where Busch will have his biggest challenges.
We’ll find out in pretty short order how much fun you can have running 25th.
That’s not to say 2012 won’t see a marked improvement for the Phoenix effort and the infusion of Busch’s talents into the equation will help the performance.
I mean it’s the holidays right? Why not believe in some Christmas magic at this time of the year?
My gut tells me this relationship will face a rocky road at some point in 2012, perhaps even sooner rather than later. Busch may be able to use it as a showcase for his abilities and parlay it into another ride when inevitably some other team’s plans go haywire and the “Driver Wanted” sign goes out around mid-year.
But for now there’s no denying this marriage will be intriguing to watch.
However, odds are it very well could be one of the Kardashian variety.