The latest rumor to hit the internet is one involving Kurt Busch and potential employment at Richard Petty Motorsports. Busch spent the last six seasons driving Dodge’s for Penske Racing before the two sides mutually agreed to part ways following incidents at Homestead in the final Sprint Cup race of 2011.
Busch won 16 races behind the wheel of Penske cars and was a constant threat to win the championship. However Busch complained at times about the quality of his cars and lack of a capable teammate. These events escalated after the departure of Ryan Newman from the team.
There has been no announcement on who will drive the #22 car vacated by Busch. Primairly sponsor Shell/Pennzoil has been supportaive of the search for a new driver. Likewise there has been little action regarding a seat for Busch in 2012.
So called analysts claim that Busch has emmence value to any organization because of his past championships provisional. But if Busch complained about the quality of the cars at Penske Racing, driving a car which is little more then a middle of the pack or field filler hardly seems like a good relationship.
Yesterday news came out that Richard Petty Motorsports may have reached out to sponsor Best Buy about the idea of placing Busch in the #43 car. AJ Allmendinger drove this car last season and is under contract for next season as well. Allmendinger has not found victory lane though, and even with some disagreements within his team Busch was able to win two races in 2011.
One man who may have the power to stop this is Jack Roush, head of Roush Fenway Racing. Roush supplies RPM with much of their equipment and was the owner of cars Busch drove prior to his tenure at Penske. The two sides also had a frictional relationship that resulted in the 2004 champion leaving a year later.
Because Roush supplies much of RPM’s equipment he has some sort of control over if the team signs Busch. But should he stop it?
Roush was upset that his driver Carl Edwards lost the Sprint Cup title to Tony Stewart based off of the tie breaker of wins. With the downsizing of his own organization via the release of David Ragan there will be one less car wearing a blue oval on the front when the season starts at Daytona.
Busch joining RPM gives that particular branch of Ford viability. Right now Ford Racing in NASCAR is simply the trio of Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and 2003 champion Matt Kenseth. Adding another driver who has won a championship and is a yearly factor for the Sprint Cup title begans to pull RPM from the depths of second rung operations in the sport.
Last season RPM was able to find victory lane with a win by Marcos Ambrose at Watkins Glen. Adding Kurt Busch give the team a chance to win at every track on the circuit.
Additionally if Roush was to put the brakes of a Busch to Petty move he runs the risk of further alienating fans with what some call his “control tactics.” Roush has been meticulous about getting the best for his drivers and making sure that his cars are afforded the same opportunities as others in NASCAR. When qualifying for the opening season Nationwide race at Daytona was rained out Roush used some of his own money to pay off start and park teams to ensure that his driver, Paul Menard, was able to race.
If some saw Roush paying a few start and park teams off so they didn’t race instead of running a few laps and retiring imagine what would be said if he was able to stop another Ford team from signing a top tier driver like Kurt Busch. I do not know how the relationship stands between Busch and Roush but the court of public opinion would be on Busch’s side on this one.
If Busch was to join RPM what would happen to AJ Allmendinger? During the season RPM part owner Andy Murstein said that the team was looking to add a third car for 2012. After talks with Clint Bowyer went stale the idea was dropped and now finding appropriate sponsorship for a third car may be impossible when you consider one of Roush’s own cars the #17 of Kenseth who won three races in 2011 is still lacking full time sponsorship.