Kurt Busch Joins Phoenix Racing



SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Kurt Busch will start off the 2012 Cup season as driver of the No. 51 Chevrolet owned by James Finch.

But that doesn’t mean he will last the full season with Finch’s Phoenix Racing team.

Finch and Busch are practically calling it a match made in heaven, but unless Busch is able to straighten up and control his emotional outbursts, it could turn out to be a hellish ride.

Why?

Finch is cut out of the same material as Richard Childress. Remember how Childress walloped Kurt’s brother, Kyle, in 2011? Finch is not above doing the same.

Finch told a reporter from radio station WHJG in Lynn Haven, Fla., that he hired Kurt Busch for his foot and not his mouth.

“He (Kurt Busch) lost a job and several million dollars,” said Finch. “I think that’s been a wakeup call. I told him, ‘I said Kurt, it’s about winning races.’

“Hopefully we can get him controlled. He’s got a long way to come. He’s got to show people he’s going to be a driver.

“And show NASCAR that he’s going to do what’s expected as a driver.”

Finch and his South Carolina-based, moderate-budget team has only 18 employees and gets its engines and chassis from Hendrick Motorsports. They ran the full 2011 schedule and finished 30th in owner points. Crew chief Nick Harrison didn’t get any poles, wins, top-fives or top-10s from drivers Landon Cassill, Bill Elliott, Boris Said or Mike Bliss.

Finch has run at least a partial Cup schedule for 18 years after one season in the Nationwide Series. All told, Phoenix Racing has 13 NASCAR wins, including the 2009 Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway with Brad Keselowski. It has one Camping World Truck Series start, 530 starts in the Nationwide Series (12 wins) and 191 starts in Cup (one win). The team has used 45 drivers since its NASCAR debut in 1990.

Despite not being one of NASCAR’s star teams, Finch is well respected and has helped several drivers break into NASCAR. He simply has not had the big sponsors needed to fund his efforts. Practically all the team’s money comes from Phoenix Construction, his own company.

“James has always had pretty stout cars for the restrictor-plate races and I know we’ll be very competitive at Daytona,” said Busch, who won this year’s Budweiser Shootout and a 150-mile Daytona 500 qualifying race. “We’ll participate in the [Jan. 12-14] test to get a good handle on our Daytona 500 car but also to win another Budweiser Shootout. Christmas came early for me this year, and I honestly can’t wait for the season to begin.

“We’re going to have fun. It’s going to be old-school racing, where we show up, race hard and go for the win. And if we don’t win, we’ll go back to the shop, work hard and do it all over again next week. That’s the way we all started racing and it’s great to get back to that. After entertaining a lot of quality offers, there’s no better place for me.”

Kurt and brother Kyle may be their own worst enemies, but no one can deny that they are racers who have the talent to win races and championships year in and year out.

If Kurt can take advantage of his past mistakes, and Finch’s team gets a couple breaks on the track, both driver and owner will benefit.

But if things go sour, I don’t believe James Finch would hesitate to use his “boot power.”

For more sports news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

Fenceviewer Staff

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