DOVER, DE - OCTOBER 01: Kurt Busch, driver of the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway on October 1, 2011 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Chris Gaythen/Getty Images)

Kurt Busch To Drive For Phoenix Racing In NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

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8 Total Updates since December 5, 2011
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Kurt Busch Statement On Joining Phoenix Racing NASCAR Team: 'Christmas Came Early For Me This Year'

Kurt Busch has released a statement about agreeing to drive Phoenix Racing's No. 51 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series carnext season.

Here are his comments:

"I'm very happy to join Phoenix Racing and after entertaining a lot of quality offers, there's no better place for me. We're going to run the full schedule together, and we're going to have fun doing it.

"It's going to be old-school racing, where we show up, race hard and go for the win. And if we don't win, we'll go back to the shop, work hard and do it all over again next week. That's the way we all started racing, and it's great to get back to that."

"James Finch has always had pretty stout cars for the restrictor-plate races and I know we'll be very competitive at Daytona. We'll participate in the test down there in January to get a good handle on our Daytona 500 car, but also to win another Budweiser Shootout.

"Christmas came early for me this year, and I honestly can't wait for the season to begin."

And a couple words from team owner James Finch:

"All we want to do is win. Winning is why I've been in racing for as long as I have, but NASCAR is a very competitive sport, and winning – especially at the Sprint Cup level – is hard. But now with Kurt Busch as our driver, we have a shot to win every week. He's a past champion and he's proven he can win everywhere. Our sponsors are looking forward to Kurt representing their brands.

"We have excellent equipment and a hard-working group of guys who want that trophy at the end of every race. Kurt's the guy who can deliver it to them."

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Kurt Busch Reportedly Accepts Phoenix Racing Offer To Drive No. 51 NASCAR Sprint Cup Car

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.

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Kurt Busch Makes Media Rounds After 'Mutual Decision' To Depart Penske Racing

Kurt Busch made statements and answered questions all over the NASCAR media world today (though not to us), commenting on his split from Penske Racing.

Here's a collection of a few Busch interviews you may like to see/read.

1. Statement on KurtBusch.com

Below, you'll find a video in which Busch says he needs to put the fun back into his own racing. He never looks at the camera and appears to read his statement off cue cards, and it's a bit uncomfortable to watch.

It's as if Busch is trying so hard to be sincere that he comes off as insincere. See for yourself:

2. Interview with ESPN's Marty Smith

Smith sat down with Busch on Monday and the driver wasted no time in criticizing the reports he was "fired" instead of having a "mutual split."

"Everybody likes to jump the gun and post whatever they can (that is) negative, to draw attention to the story," Busch told Smith. "It's unfortunate that (storyline) was getting pushed when there was discussions between me, Roger (Penske), my agent."

Busch also told Smith "it's going to be fun to rebuild" himself through a program his sports psychologist has set up for him and said he's looking forward to doing things "the right way."

3. Interview with Sirius XM Radio's Dave Moody

Unprompted, Busch opened his interview with Dave Moody by telling the radio host he was "doing a favor for a few friends of mine in the media" by answering questions today.

"Then I was like, 'Well, I guess I'm all done now, because I don't have very many friends in the media after I get done talking with you!'" Busch said.

Gee. Wonder why?

To listen to Moody's interview with Busch, click here.

4. Interview with The Associated Press' Jenna Fryer

Busch told the AP "I'm not sure I was the best fit" for Penske Racing.

‘‘My frankness and my intensity, it didn't play the way I intended it to," he said. "It didn't fit.''

The interview (which you can read here) was also notable because Penske VP Bud Denker stressed Busch was not "fired." (Though in Denker's explanation, it sure sounded like a firing.)

"It was not a firing," he said. "We did not fire Kurt Busch. ... We said, ‘Here's where we are going in the future, Kurt, and we talked to our sponsors and they concurred with us.'"

5. Interview with USA Today's Nate Ryan

Busch told USA Today he would consider driving in NHRA next season – anything to put a smile back on his face.

"There's been quite a few things weighing on me," he told the newspaper. "Today is a day where I feel a lot lighter. I can smile honestly and go, 'This is refreshing, and this is a good start.' At end of day, I want to be remembered as a champion driver and someone who represented the sport well."

You can read the complete USA Today interview here.

6. Interview with FoxSports.com's Lee Spencer

Busch described his personality as having two very different sides in an interview with FoxSports.com.

"For 23 hours and 59 minutes of the day, ‘corporate Kurt' fits in, does a great job – I think you can ask any of the corporate sponsors that I've worked with about how well of a job I do," he said. "But when you find yourself like I did –after Homestead, after Phoenix, after Texas, with all the results that we had, it was a pretty big snowball that turned into an avalanche."

7. Interview with Performance Racing Network

Busch said he could tell the second half of the season was "wearing on me" judging by his reaction to various events.

"It was a developing theme over this past year," he told PRN's Doug Rice. "It wasn't any moment that created or started these discussions."

Though there was mixed emotions, Busch stressed he was "optimistic" and a valued free agent. He said he's gotten "quality phone calls and texts coming in" already today.

"I needed a fresh start," he said. "I need to find a way to be a better driver and a better person."

You can hear the full interview here.

8. Interview with SI.com's Brant James

Busch told SI.com his phone was ringing "off the hook as we talk" and felt he had some great options already.

"I think my frankness and intensity doesn't play well with others," he said in explaining his departure.

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Kurt Busch Leaves Penske Racing Under 'Mutual Agreement,' Team Says

Kurt Busch is no longer a driver for Penske Racing, the team said in a Monday morning release.

Busch was reportedly fired by Penske, but the team presented the separation as a "mutual agreement" and said both sides had a hand in the decision.

Penske will now look for another driver (rumored to be David Ragan, though he declined comment to SB Nation), while Busch evaluates his future in racing.

The news release said Busch "will seek new opportunities with another race team," though his options seem extremely limited in the current NASCAR landscape.

"I am grateful to Penske Racing for six very productive years," Busch said. "Together we won a lot of races – 16 in all. Leaving a great organization and a lucrative contract is not easy, but it's an important step for me and allows me to take a deep breath to work on things that can make me a better driver and a better person."

Busch said last week he was seeing a sports psychologist to deal with personal issues, which include extreme anger. That anger was captured in a YouTube rant toward an ESPN pit reporter, and it ultimately led to Busch's departure.

For Penske – and more important, for sponsor Shell – enough was enough.

"I appreciate the victories that Kurt has brought Penske Racing and our sponsors over the past six years," team owner Roger Penske said. "While I am disappointed that Kurt will not be racing for our team in the future, both Kurt and I felt that separating at this time was best for all parties, including our team and sponsors. I wish Kurt the best in his future racing endeavors."

Where can Busch go now?

It's unlikely he'll be able to find a competitive full-time Cup ride unless he unseats an existing driver. But he's already burned bridges with Ford teams and Dodge teams, so a team such as Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing might be one of the only places that would give him an opportunity.

Penske will reportedly announce its choice to replace Busch later today.

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Kurt Busch Discusses Actions At Homestead, Reveals He's Seeing Sports Psychologist

Kurt Busch said he recognizes his actions in NASCAR's season finale at Homestead – cursing at an ESPN pit reporter and being caught flipping his middle finger – were inappropriate and can't happen again.

The Penske Racing driver, who was fined $50,000 by NASCAR for the incidents, also said he's seeing a sports psychologist about controlling his anger after races.

"You can work 364 days on being positive and building a better platform, and it can take just one day to knock it all back," he said Thursday in Las Vegas. "I need to harness what happens in the race car and keep it there, and then I need to step out of the car and understand that if we didn't reach our goal for that day or that moment, that it's going to be alright at the end."

Busch said he also understands "I need to be a better person on the radio, to the team, as a leader." He indicated a belief that NASCAR's fine was fair.

"My actions were were inappropriate," he said. "I feel like (NASCAR officials) have to control the sport in a positive way. What I did wasn't very positive. And so we'll look at it and decide what we need to do moving forward on how we need to react to it. ... We've got things to fix."

Busch said his anger toward ESPN's Dr. Jerry Punch stemmed from being told the No. 22 car's broken transmission had damaged Tony Stewart's championship-contending car earlier in the race.

The driver said he was already upset about likely finishing 11th in the points – and thus the "first loser" in Las Vegas for the banquet (only the top 10 drivers make speeches at Friday's ceremony). When Punch broke the news that Busch's car had hurt Stewart's Chase title hopes, Busch was enraged because he thought former owner Jack Roush might win the championship with Carl Edwards.

"I realized, 'My car is taking away a shot at Tony's championship,'" Busch said. "I used to work for the guys who Carl races for, and that was the first thing that flashed through my mind: 'I took Stewart's chances away.'"

As for the speculation Busch was actually flipping off the First Lady (his finger was directed at Michelle Obama's SUVs), the driver said he was simply upset that vehicles were blocking his garage stall.

"My car was dead; I didn't have any power to move forward," he said. "There were all these SUVs parked in front of my car. I don't know who it was or what was going on. ... (The gesture wasn't for) nobody in general."

Though Busch was rebuked by sponsor Shell-Pennzoil, the driver said his job was not in jeopardy.

"As the sponsor is concerned, yes, they're agitated about what happened at Homestead," he said. "But looking forward, we can find better things."

In other news, Busch is looking for a new crew chief after Steve Addington bolted for Stewart-Haas Racing, where he'll be atop Stewart's pit box next season.

Busch said he and Addington departed "as friends" with a handshake, even though Busch was surprised when he heard Addington might leave in October.

Former Stewart crew chief Darian Grubb is "an option," Busch said, but Penske is more likely to promote someone who is already with the organization.

He cited the successful pairing of teammate Brad Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe – who came through the Penske system – and said "I think internally, we're going to find our key guy."

"I need a Jimmy Fennig – a lead veteran," Busch said. "I need somebody that's going to respect what I've done, but also control me in a way that is positive. I like to look up to guys.

"If we find that right person, it's going to be somebody who is able to manage the crew, get the best out of the over-the-wall guys and understand what I need out of the race car – and be able to put me back in my box when I get out of it."

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