If I Were A NASCAR Owner, I'd Hire Kurt Busch

Imagine for a moment you're a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner operating three fully backed cars and who has won a multitude of races and championships.

Now let's say two of your cars are performing to your lofty standards, but the third team has continually underperformed for the last couple of years to the point where you're getting pressure from your sponsors to make changes.

You want to hire someone who can jump in right away and run up front from the get-go, but there aren't a lot of big names available right now. In fact, there is only one who fits the above criteria:

Kurt Busch.

Go ahead -- scoff, shake your head and question why you would want to hire a driver with enough baggage to fill the entire cargo hold of a 747.

(Waiting for the laughter to die down.)

(Still waiting.)

As you compose yourself, here's the truth: Busch is one of the few drivers available -- if not the only one -- who is capable of winning races (plural, not singular) and a championship.

There are many reasons why the pressure to win in NASCAR is greater than ever before, but chief among them is the lack of companies willing to spend millions to sponsor a team.

At the same time, the number of drivers who are capable of making regular trips to Victory Lane to appease said sponsors are also few and far between. Busch, however, is one of those drivers.

His credentials? A Sprint Cup Series title in 2004, 24 career wins, six Chase appearances in eight years and at least one victory a year since 2002.

This is why, despite Busch's checkered past, teams who are committed to winning will always have an interest in him. Because when you take away everything else, at the end of the day he can drive a race car like few others.

And this is why it wasn't surprising last week when rumors cropped up that Richard Childress Racing was going to sign Busch to unseat Jeff Burton. Or why there are those who think it's a foregone conclusion Busch is going to Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the year to replace Joey Logano and race alongside his brother, Kyle.

While it may be great P.R. for a team to say that treating people the right way is more important than winning races, there is far more to it than just that.

How has that high road worked out so far for Penske Racing, which had grown tired of Busch's abrasive and abusive personality and mutually split from him in the offseason?

Busch's replacement, A.J. Allmendinger, has struggled so far and has come nowhere close to replicating the success Busch had a season ago. Through 11 races, Allmendinger has just one top-10 finish -- the same number Busch has accumulated despite having inferior equipment.

I fully admit Busch's behavior has often crossed the line from being overly competitive to boorish, but my hope is that he has finally learned that he has to choose his battles more carefully and realizes he can't continue to act like a spoiled child whose favorite toy had been just taken away.

While critics may point to the events of last Saturday night at Darlington and say Busch is still the same immature hothead he's always been, I counter by asking if you really expect any driver to be perfect 100 percent of the time. Because if you expect that, then you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

This is big-time, high-stakes racing, where tempers are going to flare from time to time, no matter how nice a person someone may be. And always remember that it's far easier to pull the reins than it is to push the reins.

Maybe it's my memory starting to fade, but I don't recall Carl Edwards' past transgressions being held over his head when he was dipping his toes in the free agency waters. Lest we forget, he could have easily killed or severely injured Brad Keselowski two years ago at Atlanta when Edwards decided to intentionally wreck Keselowski while he was running at speeds in excess of 180 mph.

And that certainly wasn't the first time Edwards showed he had anger issues. Remember when he blindsided Matt Kenseth -- a teammate, no less -- after a race at Martinsville and acted like he was going to punch him because Edwards felt Kenseth raced him too hard?

But I guess when you have a nice smile and know how to act when the cameras are rolling, it's considered water under the bridge. After all, Edwards has had zero issue attracting sponsorships or landing a ride with a top-flight team.

The key for a team to have success with Busch is pairing him with a sponsor who isn't bothered by his bad boy image, much like how Dale Earnhardt was a perfect fit for the images Wrangler and GM Goodwrench wanted to portray.

Busch being sponsored by a candy company like his brother or a product marketed toward children is simply a relationship doomed to fail. What Busch needs is a company with the knowledge that there is a place for bad boys in the marketplace, one willing to embrace his rough edges and use them to their advantage.

So go ahead, Mr. Team Owner, and sign a less talented driver who's better at playing along with others. Because as you go in that direction, I'm going to go in another: I will gladly take Busch and his considerable baggage for my imaginary Cup team.

Now, does anyone know the number for a good sports psychologist?

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