Kurt Busch wore out his welcome with several NASCAR teams. He wore out his welcome with the media. He wore out his welcome with fans. He realized this and took the steps necessary to change. Now he is an Ambassador for Racing—yes you read that right—an Ambassador.
The last two seasons Kurt Busch worked his way back to a high quality NASCAR team. Along the way he learned a lot. We do not need to talk about what got Busch here anymore. His actions the last couple of years have taken care of that. What happened before, happened before, there is a new driver in town. He earned our respect back.
Kurt Busch caught the eye of Gene Haas at the end of last year. Haas put his money on Busch and started another NASCAR Sprint Cup team from scratch just for him. This team hasn’t done well, as most new teams do, but Busch did win a race and presumably is in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He is currently 28th in points. He needs to stay within the top 30 in points in order to use the power of that win and stay in the Chase. That isn’t the story though.
Kurt Busch set out to do what no NASCAR driver has done before. He looked for and got a great Indy Car team to provide him with a ride in the Indianapolis 500. Sure other NASCAR drivers have done “The Double” as it is called, racing in the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 all on the same day; 1100 miles of racing. John Andretti, Robby Gordon, and Tony Stewart were all Indy Car drivers before becoming NASCAR drivers. That isn’t the story though.
There is no doubt that Busch put himself and his reputation on the line racing in his first race: the Indianapolis 500. As for his racing, well after a vicious crash in his Indy Car in practice, one might expect him to be too hesitant. Certain failure would come to mind. He didn’t. He raced smart and brought home a sixth place finish. The only blemish on his day is that his engine blew in the Coca-Cola 600 relegating him to a 40th place finish, one that he did not need as noted above.
To put his Indy Car race into perspective, Busch was the fastest qualifying rookie and highest finishing rookie of the race. He won the prestigious Sunoco Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award. He joins his other teammates, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick, who have also won the award.
The demands on a high profile driver like Busch, especially one doing a great feat, are unfathomable. Through it all Kurt Busch was the most relaxed he has ever looked. He was the most gracious to his teams, on camera and in print, than he has ever been.
“Today is a memory I’ll have forever. It was a challenge I put forth for myself. I enjoyed it. I soaked it all in up North. I loved racing up in Indy in front of all the Indiana natives and the Hoosiers. They love their speedway up there. That speedway loves them. That’s what I really saw out of that track today.” Busch added, “There was a grand stage to stand on and represent NASCAR. We brought her home in sixth place. I didn’t think I had anything for those top five guys. They were racing hard. And those were the top five in that series. They’re strong. They’re tough.”
Make no mistake about it; Kurt Busch engaged NASCAR fans with Indy Car Racing. He also engaged Indy Car fans with NASCAR Racing. That is just what Ambassadors do. In this case Kurt Busch represented both forms of racing in the best way possible. It would be great to see him do it again.
Busch said, “I’d love to do it again. And at the same time, you’ve got to do it with quality teams. The teams really can make the big difference in all of this. And I have to thank Andretti and I have to thank Stewart-Haas.”
Feature Photo Credit: 298576 Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images