Kurt Busch will drive Phoenix Racing's No. 51 car next season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, according to a report Thursday from FoxSports.com's Lee Spencer.
Spencer quoted Phoenix Racing owner James Finch as saying he and Busch have a handshake deal for the 2004 Cup champ to drive his car – which has typically been a backmarker. The 51 car, mostly driven by Landon Cassill last season, finished 30th in owner points.
It's a major step down competition-wise compared to Busch's previous job at Penske Racing, but Busch will have no pressure and zero expectations in the 51 car. That may fit his criteria for next season, a year in which Busch said he wants to make racing fun again.
Phoenix buys its cars and engines from Hendrick Motorsports, so Busch could have a chance to succeed in the 51. It's unrealistic to think he could make the Chase, but it's not inconceivable he could win a race.
Ultimately, FoxSports.com reported winning was the top priority for Finch.
"All we want to do is win," Finch told the site.
The agreement with Busch comes after Finch told ESPN.com on Dec. 9 he would be interested in hiring Busch, but wouldn't tolerate any mouthing off from the volatile driver.
"Kurt, his talent is pretty good,'' Finch told ESPN. "He's one of the best there is, but I'm not going to listen to that s--- and pay him money.''
Now, though, Finch said he's prepared to tolerate whatever he has to with Busch in order to win.
"I told Kurt, ‘I won't fire you, and you won't quit,'" Finch told Spencer. "We'll do whatever it takes – roll in the mud if we have to to win. I've worked construction all my life just so I could race and have a good time. I've worked with iron workers, I worked with construction workers, so working with a driver is not going to be a problem."
Busch's quick hiring after parting ways with Penske isn't a huge surprise given his talent. In professional sports, athletes who can win are repeatedly given opportunities no matter what they've done off the field – or off the track, in this case.
Unlike a Michael Vick, Busch didn't commit any crimes or go to jail before being given another chance. His sin was being a jerk in public.
If Busch is able to win in the 51 car, his most recent blowups will soon be forgotten and forgiven by those who are more interested in performance than personality.
And in James Finch's case, that's already happened.