Trio of Stories to Watch

Trio of Stories to Watch

There are at least three more big moves yet to be made before the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season unofficially kicks off next month with Preseason Thunder Testing in Daytona.

There are at least three more big moves yet to be made before the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season unofficially kicks off next month with Preseason Thunder Testing in Daytona.

While the off-season has already seen a flurry of personnel moves, swaps, firings and sponsor decisions these three stories bear watching as the calendar readies a flip to 2012:

Who will drive the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge?

Several sources swore David Ragan was all but measured for his driver’s uniform two weeks ago to slide into the ride that opened up after Kurt Busch’s departure. But despite naming Todd Gordon to crew chief the No. 22 Dodge, elevating him from the team’s Nationwide Series program ala Paul Wolfe’s promotion with the Blue Deuce, team owner Roger Penske has yet to name Busch’s replacement.

The longer this drags on the more the team gets behind the eight ball in the chemistry and cohesiveness department. While Ragan seems the perfect fit and someone sponsor Shell/Pennzoil would most certainly enjoy seeing represent its product, the Penske organization continues to assess the market.

The list of other available talent includes Brian Vickers, David Ragan and Sam Hornish Jr., who now appears locked into a full Nationwide effort next season in hopes of winning the title for Penske while at the same time continuing to sharpen his stock car skills. Outside of A.J. Allmendinger, who could be on the street if Richard Petty Motorsports loses the Best Buy sponsorship for the No. 43 entry, there doesn’t seem to be a better fit than Ragan.

But for whatever reason Penske racing doesn’t yet see it that way.

Where will the Best Buy sponsorship land?

Richard Petty Motorsports turned things around in one year’s time and brought back the organization from the brink of near extinction after last season’s dicey winter. However things aren’t looking very rosy for RPM this Christmas week with the very real possibility of Best Buy jumping from the No. 43 to another team.

Roush Fenway Racing is now considered the favorite to land the electronics retailer to join the sponsorship stable for Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 ride, which at this point does not have full backing for the 2012 season. Jack Roush has pledged to keep the car on track all year if he has to fund the program out of his own pocket. That probably means “The Cat in the Hat” is ready to play “Let’s Make a Deal” and offer Best Buy a sweet program at a cost-effective price.

Should that happen it would leave RPM scrambling to find money for the iconic No. 43 at a pretty inopportune time with the season just a shade over two months from starting. Allmendinger might also be thrown for a loop and tossed into the unemployment line that currently is pretty full with the likes of Ragan, Vickers, Reutimann and others already holding a spot.

The sport is a business and this turn of events is a tough reminder that unfortunately will have a personal impact on many careers and lives.

What are Kurt Busch's 2012 plans?

Word is Busch declined RPM’s offer to be considered for the No. 43 ride ending speculation the controversial driver would bounce back from his Penske departure with at least a 1A-type team ride.

Busch has remained publicly quiet on what exactly he does have up his sleeve for next year and behind. He went on a very aggressive media blitz immediately after he and Penske parted ways and assured everyone there was interest on many fronts for his talents.

In addition to concentrating on dealing with the emotional outbursts that led to his well-publicized behavioral problems at the Homestead finale through his work with a sports psychologist, Busch is also plotting out the next phase of his career.

There is speculation he is indeed following through on his thought of walking away from NASCAR for at least a year and running an NHRA Pro Stock car for the 2012 season, an off-shoot of his enjoyable time at last year’s Gatornationals.

But with little brother Kyle’s Nationwide Series ride still open, many believe the Busch boys will indeed team up for next season in a combined NWS-truck series program out of the KBM stable.

That would be a storyline guaranteed to generate headlines and maybe not as far-fetched as it first sounded.

Don’t expect any announcement on Busch’s plans until after the holiday season but there could certainly be some interesting family discussions going on over the Christmas break.

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