Kurt Busch’s 2018 season is unknown after major rumor and Kyle lashes out NASCAR’s new regulations for the lower series, risking his team’s future.
The Busch brothers has had their days being on top with wins and championships but also had their rock bottom moments. Tuesday’s news regarding both were different. One regarding silly season rumors and the other being new regulations.
At 9:27 a.m. PST Tuesday, NASCAR Senior Writer for Motorsport.com Lee Spencer reported Kurt will part ways with Stewart-Haas Racing—a team he’s raced for since 2014—next season, bumping Matt Kenseth out of the No. 1 free agency spot.
Less than 15 minutes after the bombshell news, the team tweeted they will not comment on Kurt’s contract status and are expecting to bring him back next season. This would’ve been the end of the rumor but it wasn’t.
Two hours later, ESPN writer Bob Pockrass (whom Kurt confronted at Dover 2012, resulting to his second career suspension) wrote and tweeted the initial report. Kurt will be a free agent as his 2018 option won’t be picked up.
Pockrass added Kurt was informed about the news based on a knowledgeable source. However, Pockrass’s report has a catch, it’s possible Stewart-Haas Racing may sign a new deal to keep Kurt.
For now, Kurt is still in the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford in 2018 but that could change Wednesday. Until that’s officially confirmed, those speculations are just rumors.
Say Stewart-Haas doesn’t come up with a new deal to keep Kurt, it will leave two former Cup champions without a ride.
There’s fewer options left for Kurt and those are Richard Childress Racing (No. 27), Hendrick Motorsports (No. 5) and Furniture Row Racing (No. 77). All three has its own caveats.
Don’t count on Kurt being at RCR because the writing on the wall says Ty Dillon or Brandon Jones are my best bet of replacing Paul Menard next season. Leaving just Hendrick and Furniture Row as his two options.
Kasey Kahne’s Brickyard 400 win boosted his chances of staying at Hendrick but it may be not enough. Hendrick’s 2018 plans won’t be announced until later in the season but if Kahne doesn’t stay, the likeliest driver to replace him is three-time Xfinity Series winner William Byron.
Furniture Row Racing are on the verge of shutting the No. 77 team due to lack of sponsorships. If Monster Energy sticks with Kurt then it may lead to a reunion between the two.
Kurt drove for Barney Visser’s team from 2012-2013 with little success. However, the amount of power they have with Toyota engines, there’s no reason why Kurt won’t do well with Furniture Row.
There’s two more problems.
First, “The Second Youth Movement” has been well-underway the past year and a half. Kurt, 38, was part of the first movement (Cup rookies from 1999-2006) and he’s one of the last drivers competing today.
Second, his 2017 season hasn’t been that stellar either.
Besides winning the Daytona 500, Kurt only has one other top-5 (Pocono June 11) and when he doesn’t finish in the top-10 (nine this season), he has only finished inside the top-20 three times.
The rest has been 21st and worse and has plummeted his average finish down to 17.4 after 21 races. Kurt has also been outside the top 10 in points since race No. 5 at Fontana and sits 14th overall.
Those numbers from a former champion won’t cut it these days. I had a conversation with someone on Twitter discussing about how Kurt doesn’t give much information to his crew over the radio.
It’s always been a part of the sport, communication is key. If you can pin point a problem with elaborate details, the changes can be assessed easier. Vague details may not produce better performances and in this day in age, it won’t cut it either.
I’m not saying him stepping up his details will save his career but that’s what happens when you interact with other fans. Doesn’t hurt to discuss about certain driver’s way of communications, I have a degree that requires me to be specific.
Whatever happens Wednesday and beyond, Kurt must deliver in the playoffs to validate his career that he deserves a competitive ride to either stay at Stewart-Haas or run elsewhere.
The other NASCAR news Tuesday was the announcement of next season’s participation guidelines for the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers who have over 5 years of experience in the sport’s highest level are only allowed to run 7 NXS and 5 NCWTS races.
Those who are competing for Cup points aren’t allowed to compete in the Dash 4 Cash races (Xfinity Series only), the regular season finale and are barred from racing in the playoffs.
It was an attempt to give lower series regulars a fair shot of winning more races and not have Cup regulars manipulate the outcome of both series championships.
Small teams rejoiced but one owner wasn’t amused and it was Kyle who called out the sport on SiriusXM NASCAR after the new regulations were announced and threatened to shut down his Camping World Truck Series team.
“If the limits for the Truck Series goes to zero, I’m done,” Kyle said. “You will no longer see Kyle Busch Motorsports teams out on the race track. That’s the way I’m going to make it. We’ll see how that progresses as the years go along. On the Xfinity Series side, I’m sure that Joe (Gibbs) is frustrated, and I know I’m frustrated. We’ll just continue to race the races were allowed to run with the sponsorship that we have.’’
Kyle added he enjoys racing his own equipment in the Truck Series and compete against his drivers, Christopher Bell and Noah Gragson.
“I enjoy going out and running Truck races,’’ Kyle said. “If I’m not allowed to do that, then why am I owning a team that I’m not allowed to race for? It just doesn’t make any sense. If I’m out there spending money for other drivers and whatnot to come up through the ranks, but yet I’m getting beat up and not allowed to drive in it, then it’s no fun for me. Then why am I spending money to evolve talent that is going to replace me one day?’’
Furthermore, Kyle said no matter the limited amount of races NASCAR puts them, there won’t be many lower series regulars winning, notably the Xfinity Series.
After 19 races, six of them were won by non-Cup regulars (three from Byron and one from Justin Allgaier, Ryan Reed and Ryan Preece), the same number at this point last season (non-Cup regulars won six more times in 2016, totaling to 12 of 33 races).
Four years ago, Austin Dillon won the series championship without winning a race as only five times a non-Cup guy won.
The fewest races non-Cup guys won in the Xfinity Series this decade was 2010 with two (out of 35 races), Allgaier (only full-time regular) and Boris Said (road course ringer).
Kyle said after winning the Xfinity Series race at Loudon July 15 he’ll retire from the series after 100 series wins. 89 out of his 176 (39 in Cup and 48 in Trucks) national series victories has come from the Xfinity Series.
What I’m going with this is that Kyle has been the poster boy for many complaints NASCAR fans has had about the lower series and it goes like this:
“Kyle wins too much! He’s the reason why guys like Brett Moffitt and Darrell Wallace, Jr. doesn’t have a ride! He’s leeching any sponsorship opportunities regulars can obtain! His winning ways shut down teams like Red Horse Racing! Names aren’t being made because of Kyle!”
I understand the fans frustrations. It happens every week, not just with Kyle. Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and even Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kyle Larson has been the subject of criticism when they win in lower series.
At the same time, I also understand Kyle’s frustrations, he’s a passionate race that wants to win. All racers do but Kyle is more polarized than others because of his consistent winning ways in Xfinity and Trucks.
Kyle sees it as a business issue where if the sport continues to reduce the number of races he races, there’s no point of competing for wins and sponsorships won’t come. It hurts his team while some smaller teams may benefit, if the money is still there without Cup guys.
Kyle’s comments also brought up something I thought about for some time. That is, some drivers have have said—notably Byron, whom he drove for Kyle last season in Trucks where he got a rookie-record 7 wins—they learn more when competing against Cup regulars.
From running the preferred line to getting advice from the top drivers, they do learn and when they run alone at racks like Iowa Speedway, the quality of competition grows over time where they can start winning at tracks like Indianapolis and Darlington.
One problem of eliminating Cup guys altogether is the appeal of the series. No regulars mean less money and the demand of sponsoring an Xfinity and Truck Series mainstay will be hard to come by.
Several fans don’t care however, they demand Cup guys or as some have called them “Leeches” out for good and names will be made.
This topic can be debated for days but all is certain, it has people talking and may have given more reasons people to hate Kyle.