Would Kurt Busch Be A Good Fit For IndyCar?

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When Kurt Busch was released from Roger Penske’s NASCAR team last week, it seemed like more than a few fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series were clamoring for Busch to come over to our side of the track and bring his talents and fans with him. Many argued that this was the kind of exposure that IndyCar needed to “move the needle”.

There is no denying that Kurt and his little brother Kyle are both immensely talented. There is also no denying that the Busch family put little emphasis on teaching the most basic manners to their children. They seem to be in a neck-in-neck battle to see who can lead NASCAR in boorish behavior.

Just last month, Kyle Busch was suspended from racing in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at Texas after intentionally crashing Ron Hornaday. It was a scary looking scene as Busch plowed into Hornaday at speed, during a yellow flag and sent him headfirst into the wall. This came less than three weeks after Dan Wheldon’s fatal crash at Las Vegas, when driver safety was foremost on everyone’s mind. This was only the latest episode of childish behavior for the younger Busch.

Not to be outdone, older brother Kurt showed a complete lack of class in a profanity-laced exchange with pit-reporter Dr. Jerry Punch of ESPN that became an overnight internet sensation on YouTube, just a couple of weeks later. It seems that the elder Busch thought his time was too precious to wait for an opportune moment for Punch to conduct a live interview with Busch after his season had ended when his transmission failed early in the race. What else he had to do at that point is still a mystery.

Now Kurt Busch has plenty of time on his hands. Roger Penske had seen enough and fired him. It wasn’t just the exchange with Punch that landed Busch on the unemployment line. This was just the latest chapter in a long list of un-Penske like behavior from Kurt Busch. Quite honestly, I was surprised when Penske hired Busch following the 2005 season after being summarily dumped by Rousch after winning the 2004 championship – even more so that he managed to survive six seasons with Penske. Make no mistake, Roger Penske’s NASCAR team is nowhere near the level of his IndyCar team, but he still expects a spotless public persona from his drivers in any series.

Some suspect that Kurt Busch will be motivated to try the IZOD IndyCar Series. He has driven an IndyCar before. Early in his career at Penske, he drove a Team Penske Dallara on the road course at Homestead and was very impressive in quickly getting it up to speed, prompting speculation that he could immediately be a success in IndyCars.

As challenging as it has proven to be to go from IndyCars to stockcars, I think making the move in the other direction would be just as difficult. Getting one of these cars up to speed on an empty road course is one thing, racing with skilled drivers who have been doing it their entire career is another.

I don’t doubt that Kurt Busch has the talent to eventually master the transition (although I think his little brother would be better at it), I just think it would be more difficult than some believe. My question is; would he be welcome over here?

Some believe that what this series is lacking is a “bad boy”. It certainly helps to have intrigue in the series when there is a good guy versus a villain. But I think the rivalries should come from within. Lately, Dario Franchitti has filled the role of the villain – not because he’s a bad guy, but because fans have grown tired of watching him win and his recent seemingly sense of entitlement. Will Power versus Dario Franchitti can become one of the best rivalries we’ve seen since Paul Tracy and Helio Castroneves.

Bringing in an interloper from NASCAR may produce some initial curiosity, but I think Busch’s followers would soon grow tired of it – unless he was successful. That would be the worst scenario. If Kurt Busch climbed into an IndyCar and beat everyone here at their own game, it would solidify what many NASCAR fans already think; that IndyCar drivers are soft and simply not very good drivers. I can hear Darrell Waltrip right now, crowing about how many of IndyCar’s best went to NASCAR and flopped, but here comes one of NASCAR’s better drivers showing the “wine & cheese” drivers how it’s done. But I don’t think that would be the case. He would struggle initially and whatever NASCAR fans followed him would quickly lose interest.

Regardless, he is not the kind of villain we need. He isn’t even a polarizing figure. At least a polarizing figure has as many fans as enemies. Kurt Busch would be roundly hated. He would drive away sponsorship and the series would develop the reputation of being the land of misfit toys, where misfits and rejects from other series can find a home. I don’t think that is the brand that Randy Bernard is trying to cultivate.

This is all speculation, anyway. Kurt Busch is not coming to IndyCar. He doesn’t want to. He wants to remain in NASCAR. While his image has been tainted and the top teams are unlikely to sign him, there is no shortage of second tier teams in NASCAR that will be tripping all over each other in order to sign him. That’s fine. Let him stay there. We don’t need him.

Having natural talent and a following of rubes does not make Kurt Busch an attractive commodity for the IZOD IndyCar Series. We have enough star-power that Randy Bernard is building the right way, without bringing an unpopular malcontent in just for ratings. With a solid mixture of veterans including Franchitti, Power, Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe combined with the younger crop of drivers like Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe and Josef Newgarden – we don’t need NASCAR’s rejects in order to build a fan base.

George Phillips

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17 Responses to “Would Kurt Busch Be A Good Fit For IndyCar?”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    Kyle yes… Kurt no…

  2. He is a NASCAR Champion. He isnt just another stock car driver. I dont think you made that point clear.

    I think he will end up replacing Joey Logano, driving for a backmarker team (that will go over well) or perhaps give the NHRA a real shot in Pro Stock. I would love it, but I just dont see IndyCar.

  3. Pass. I loathe, Darrell Waltrip, btw. Because it can’t be said enough.

  4. First off, Kurt Busch is NOT coming to INDYCAR. With that being said, he wouldn’t run off with the ICS championship or any such thing like that because the competition in INDYCAR is not something to sneeze at. He would have his hands full and I suspect would not, at first, look as good as people think. Even after he got used to the cars he still would have to beat some great racers and teams. With that being said, I would welcome him to try his hand, but he would have a lot to lose and not much to gain from his effort.

  5. I don’t watch Sprint Cup racing, so I know next to nothing about Busch. But George here has written a compelling argument which firmly convinces me to agree with him. Just say “No” to Busch in Indycar. Indycar should at least attempt to be about class, not jackwagon personalities.

  6. Kurt Busch would get run over in IndyCar. When was the last time a “stock car” driver was competitive in an IndyCar? Never.

    • billytheskink Says:

      Limited sample size, but Donnie Allison fits the bill. So does Al Unser Jr., if Dale Earnhardt is to be believed…

      While it won’t happen and might do the series little good if it did, I would love to see either Busch give IndyCar, or at least the 500, a shot. If for no other reason than that drivers switching disciplines is interesting.

  7. Indycar needs Americans and villains and Busch fills both roles. If he could get the Go Daddy Ride that would be ideal. Although he and Marco would not be a healthy parring

  8. I voted yes simply because I would want him to try it and have his ego hurt when he fails. If he succeeds, then we need to seriously check our lineup. But that wont happen…even Scott Speed could not do it!

  9. Carburetor Says:

    It would seem to me that there is ample talent waiting/attempting to get a ride in IndyCar. I’m not sure what why IndyCar would want/need a roughneck driver. However it might be fun to see him, Paul Tracy, and EJ Viso on the track by themselves trying to see how much damage they could inflict on their cars and still try to finish…..

  10. james t suel Says:

    Noone from Nascar has ever made the change to Indycar a sucess!
    never! Many have went from open wheel to Nascar ,and won. MARIO, AJ , TONY STEWERT, RAYN NEWMAN, JEFF GORDON
    ETC.

    • Who, in the past 20 years, has left NASCAR to join the ICS? By the way, who is Noone? Peter Noone? Did he race in NASCAR?

      • billytheskink Says:

        Stanton Barrett
        Larry Foyt

        Technically: John Andretti, Robby Gordon, and Dario Franchitti

        I think that’s the list…

        • Billy, Robby Gordon may have left the IRL/ICS for NASCAR, but from the occasional Indy 500 efforts he hasn’t left NASCAR for the ICS. Same with John Andretti. However, Dario wasn’t a bonafide Cup driver so you can’t put him in the comparison mix. Barrett had 22 Cup races run over 7 years so that hardly makes him a yard stick for comparison.

          • billytheskink Says:

            Those 5 names are all that I could come up with that meet the criteria of NASCAR-to-IndyCar in the last 20 years in the strictest sense, that they spent time in NASCAR before a stint (whether their first or not) in IndyCar.

            I intended it to be an illustration to support your point, or at least, an observation I thought was kind of interesting.

          • Got it and thank you.

  11. Busch would bring attention (in the “any publicity is good publicity” category) to Indycar. Indycar needs the attention. If he was with a good team, he could possibly be competitive. It would be interesting to watch in the sort of train wreck way that reality tv series love. Not sure who would want to sponsor him though–and if they would sponsor him in Indycar, why wouldn’t they sponsor him in NASCAR?

    I’d watch it, but I wouldn’t want to work for his team. i can’t see him going to Indycar, but interesting to speculate about.

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