By now, we are all familiar with the trials and tribulations of Kurt Busch.
He was the Sprint Cup Series Champion in 2004, and then there was his long-running feud with Jimmy Spencer. He notched at least one win every season from 2002 until 2011, and then there was his unceremonious parting with Penske Racing at the end of the 2011 season.
It is safe to say that Busch has seen all of the highs and lows of the sport he loves. But his career should begin to take a swing towards the up side once again, based on what he has accomplished over the last season and a third.
After his verbal tirade aimed at legendary NASCAR reporter Dr. Jerry Punch at the 2011 season finale at Homestead, team owner Roger Penske was through with the Kurt Busch soap opera, and decided to part ways with his star.
At this point, Busch was left scrounging for a ride for the upcoming 2012 season, as most of the rosters of the top team owners had already been filled, and the ones that hadn't been filled were leery to sign Busch, as he had become more of headache than he was seemingly worth.
This led Busch to Phoenix Racing, and its owner James Finch.
Finch and Busch worked out a deal for the 2012 season. There was no contract signed between the two, just a handshake and a gentlemen’s agreement. Busch wasn't allowed to quit, and Finch wouldn't fire him. It was as simple as that.
Expectations were low, as Finch fielded just the one car, and ran on very limited funds, but at the very least, Busch was still in the top NASCAR series.
Late in the season, it was announced that Busch would move on to Furniture Row Racing for the 2013 season. With Finch’s blessing, Busch ended up going to drive for his newest team for the final six races of the year.
Phoenix Racing finished that season 27th in owners points, which was the best in its history. And that was in large part to Busch. He gave Finch multiple top-10 finishes for just the fourth time in his team's history, and Busch's six lead lap finishes were the second-most for a James Finch driver in team history.
Driving for Furniture Row, Busch ended the 2012 season with three consecutive top-10 finishes, which was a first for the team.
That leads to 2013. Continuing to drive for the single car team based out of Denver, Colorado, Busch has been nothing short of impressive. Through 15 races Busch sits 20th in the point standings.
That ranks him within 20 points of Jeff Gordon, Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who are all based out of multi-car teams, and are expected to contend for race wins and championships.
Furniture Row team owner Barney Visser sits 22nd in the owners points, which is two places higher than the team has ever finished a season.
Prior to his misfortunes at Michigan this past weekend, Busch was 15th in the driver standings, while Visser was 16th in the owner’s point standings.
Busch has scored five top-10 finishes, three of which resulted in top-5 finishes. He won the pole for the Southern 500 at Darlington, and has thus far led 145 laps on the season.
Prior to this season, Furniture Row Racing had only led a total of 48 laps in eight seasons since its inception as a team in 2005.
The only thing that Busch hasn't been able to do since his departure from Penske Racing is get back to victory lane, but he is inching his way closer.
He was up front all night long at Richmond, but had to settle for a ninth place finish, after a late race dust-up with both Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth.
Two weeks later he won the pole at Darlington and led the first 69 laps before seeing the handling of his car go away, and fading to just outside the top-10.
If not for a poor final pit stop, Busch appeared to be well on his way to winning this season’s All-Star Race, ultimately settling for a fifth-place finish. Then, to put a cap on the two week festivities in Charlotte, Busch posted a podium finish in the Coca Cola 600.
Busch has more than earned a second chance to drive for one of the top teams in the sport with his performances over the last season-plus.
More importantly, his attitude has seemed to improve. While he still can't boast a spotless off-track record, he is trying to say all of the right things during his interviews, and has remained upbeat, positive and complimentary all while driving less than top equipment, and after suffering his fair share of poor luck.
Busch has more than proven himself capable as a driver. As a person trying to repair his image, his efforts cannot go unnoticed. Now it is time for a top-tiered team owner to step up and give him the ride that he deserves.