When Kurt Busch and Penske Racing mutually agreed to part ways following the incidents at Homestead many noticed there was a lack of quality replacements. The trio of drivers believed to be at the top of Penske’s list included David Ragan, Brian Vickers and David Reutimann however none may be as good as the driver that Busch eventually replaces.
David Ragan broke into the win column this year with a win at Daytona in July but missed the Sprint Cup Chase again and had his tenure at Roush Fenway Racing summed up as a disappointment by team owner Jack Roush.
Brian Vickers 2011 season wound up as a highlight of angst against other drivers and he vowed to be the sheriff of the NASCAR garage. Ultimately the law found himself out of a ride when his team closed up shop after failing to find a perspective owner.
Then there is the case of David Reutimann who was virtually invisible all season. Reutimann had won a race in each of the past two years but managed a lone top-5 on the year and led just 8 laps. He became expendable when Michael Waltrip Racing signed Clint Bowyer to a multi-year contract.
With the lack of results on the market and the possibility that someone else could be fired in order to make room for Busch the question has been asked – is Penske Racing waiting for Busch’s next move before making theirs? It’s entirely possible because while the seats that Busch could take over are limited the drivers he could replace may be as good or better.
In essence Penske Racing is in no hurry to sign a driver for 2012 because the three drivers mostly associated with the #22 car are all similar. The best driver for the team may not even be on the market yet.
Kurt Busch was to meet with James Finch about driving the #51 car but the latest news is that Richard Petty Motorsports has spoken to sponsor Best Buy about replacing current driver AJ Allmendinger with Busch.
While Allmendinger has yet to find victory lane he did have the best season of his career in 2011 finishing 15th in the final driver standings based off of a top-5 and 10 top-10 finishes in the famed #43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports.
No one likes to be removed from a ride but making a move from RPM to Penske Racing is certainly not a step down on the pecking order.