RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Kurt Busch had shown all kinds of promise with his new Furniture Row Racing team, finishing in the top five in consecutive races and climbing to the cusp of being in the coveted top 12 of NASCAR’s Sprint Cup standings.
He arrived at Martinsville Speedway last week 13th in points, a pretty impressive showing for a single-car team in the age of multicar powerhouses – not to mention a team based in Colorado, far from NASCAR’s unofficial Charlotte, N.C., hub.
Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup Series champion, was doing well at Martinsville on Sunday, too, until a bad fuel pump and then a brake issue caused his day to end in a fiery crash. The car that had been seventh was suddenly relegated to 37th place.
“I was juggling a bunch of stuff,” he said, having overcome a flat tire that put him two laps down, a fuel pump that he and his team knew could be a problem later in the race and a spin. And “then it all came unraveled.”
It was the kind of incident that has gotten the hot-headed Busch in trouble in the past. He has blasted his team over the radio or taken out his frustrations on other drivers or reporters.
All of this is part of the reason he says the single-car team works well for him.
“Just more of a family atmosphere, the ease of communication,” he said of Barney Visser’s team. “Everybody, it seems, is all on the same page and you don’t have to worry about it. … It’s easier to keep your arms around everybody.”
The family atmosphere also simplifies things, he said.
“The corporate side of it can get so vicious,” he said, having driven for the multicar teams owned by Jack Roush and Roger Penske. At Furniture Row, “the owner is the sponsor, there’s less people involved, and you don’t have a group of people checking surveys and things and blowing things out of proportion because of one week where things didn’t go right.”
Those weeks and the angry moments, he said, never seem to have been forgotten.
“What I’m frustrated with is I’ll do the same things that others do, but mine will be documented a different way,” he said. “That’s what’s been frustrating. Guys like, well, no names need to be mentioned, but guys will rip their crew on the radio worse off or the same way as I do, and yet it’s Kurt that’s always the problem.”
Like Joey Logano, Tony Stewart and others, Busch also said it’s difficult to be scrutinized for his behavior at a time when tensions are still so high, like after being run into the wall late in a race, or nudged aside and losing a victory on a final lap.
“Thirty points. That’s what we lost yesterday,” he said. “Where am I going to get those 30 points back? When we come here to Richmond in September, if I’m 30 points behind 12th place, that’s that moment of when I was upset.”
He’s even experienced it from the other side, where to an observer, something seems like much ado about nothing.
“I’ve been on the pit box watching my little brother race his Nationwide car that we shared last year, and I’m like, ‘Why’s he so excited? Everything’s going to be fine,'” he said, laughing. “Well, when you’re in the car, it’s a little different.”
– By HANK KURZ Jr., AP Sports Writer
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