There has never been any doubt of what Kurt Busch can do behind the wheel. He is arguably one of the best talents in all of motor sports. However, the Las Vegas native has had a lot of run-ins with the law over his NASCAR career. And though many thought he had changed after his outbreak in the 2012 season, Busch has redefined himself again in 2015.
Ever since he won his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title back in 2004, Busch’s career has gone down hill. At the time of his first championship, he was a young 26 year-old. With a future so bright, how is one to dig themselves in a hole.
Busch’s first incident with the law came at the end of the 2005 season. He was alleged of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in the Scottsdale area the night prior to the race at Phoenix International Raceway. Car-owner Jack Roush suspended Busch for the last two races of the season.
Then the feisty competitor made his way to drive the “Blue Deuce” for Team Penske. Busch didn’t have to overcome much at Team Penske, except the driver had constant negative radio-chatter and diminished his team efforts.
It wasn’t until 2011 when teammate Brad Keselowski took over the No. 2 and Busch was slated to run in the No. 22 that there were problems. In the season-finale after crashing out early, Busch went-off on ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch. Roger Penske released him following this act.
The next two seasons were a true test for him. He drove for James Finch’s single-car team in 2012 and Furniture Row Racing in 2013.
Yet again, his temper proved to be the determining factor for such a talented racecar driver. He got into an altercation with another member of the media after an on-track incident with Justin Allgaier in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race. This time, it was Bob Pockrass, who wrote for Sporting News at the time. NASCAR suspended Busch for the following weekend at Pocono Raceway.
This was the time for Busch to regroup.
Enters his former girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll. Driscoll played a huge part on his on-track success during the 2013 season as Busch again looked to be focused. He ran well for Furniture Row Racing, so Gene Haas wanted to take a chance and sign the driver.
Busch ran the 2014 Sprint Cup Series schedule at helm of the No. 41 for Stewart-Haas Racing, even though co-owner Tony Stewart was against starting a fourth team at the time. Everything looked like it was well as the newly acquired team won in its sixth outing at Martinsville Speedway, which ended a lengthy winless streak for Busch.
Driscoll even helped Busch with his fitness program in preparation of doing the “Double,” which consisted of the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day.
However, heading into the second-to-last race of the year, Driscoll stated that Busch had violently attacked her inside of his motorhome at Dover in late September. She filed for a no contact order against Busch.
The Friday prior to the 2015 running of the Daytona 500, NASCAR suspended Busch until this allegation was clear after Driscoll was granted an order of protection from Busch after evidence from a Delaware judge supported the likelihood of domestic abuse. Following the third race of the season at Las Vegas, NASCAR granted him access to return to the sport after it was reported by the judge that no criminal charges would be filed against Busch.
And since then, Busch is a rejuvenated man. 2015 looks to be his best shot at a championship since he won the title back in 2004.
Though Busch has only competed in six of the nine events held in 2015, he sits 18th in points and has already clinched his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup with a win at Richmond. In those six races, he has three top-fives, as well as leading an astonishing 520 laps to go along with two poles at Auto Club Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.
But what is making this No. 41 team click on all eight cylinders?
The leadership of veteran crew chief Tony Gibson is allowing Busch to thrive this season. Gibson, who was formally the crew chief for Danica Patrick over the past two years, was paired up with Busch with three races remaining in the 2014 season. In those three races, the team piled up three top 10s.
The Busch-Gibson duo is a match made in heaven. The veteran crew chief is exactly what the driver needs since they can understand each other better than most of Busch’s prior crew chiefs, who had more of an engineering background rather than a hands-on approach. The way Gibson calls a race is a fair comparison to Jimmy Fenning, and he led Busch to the 2004 Sprint Cup championship.