Rumors surfaced last weekend that Kurt Busch might be leaving Stewart-Haas Racing to replace Jamie McMurray in the No. 1 Chevrolet at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Nothing has been announced yet, but this leads to this week’s question: Should Busch go to Ganassi or stay at SHR?
What if your grass is already green?
Let me get this straight: Kurt Busch is a series champion and Daytona 500 winner who drives for what is arguably the most competitive team from top to bottom, and yet, he’s contemplating going to a different organization. The word from the rumor mill is that the 2004 Cup title holder is exploring a switch to Chip Ganassi Racing.
Forgive my skepticism, but that doesn’t seem to make one bit of sense.
First off, let’s talk about Busch himself. He is absolutely an asset. He remains one of only two full-time Cup drivers to make their series debut in a race featuring Dale Earnhardt. His experience far surpasses that of almost every other driver in the field. He has 29 wins and has logged over 178,000 laps in his 635 starts. So he’s earned his place, and one can essentially dismiss the notion that he is being forced out at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Speaking of SHR, the team is superior to nearly every other this season. Two of its drivers have accounted for nine wins in 23 races as of last week. Even those who haven’t won, including Busch, have piled up at least 10 top-10 finishes. All four drivers have won at least one stage as well.
SHR is at its most successful point as an organization right now. Busch has enjoyed sharing in that success recently, winning five races over the last four years with the team.
The car Busch would take over at Ganassi hasn’t graced a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Victory Lane since 2013, the year before Busch moved to SHR. The No. 1 Chevrolet at CGR has underperformed for quite some time. The recent success enjoyed by team driver Kyle Larson has served only to amplify how far off his teammate’s ride is.
Jamie McMurray has been behind the wheel of the No. 1 since 2010. He scored three wins during the first season in that ride. Since then, he only has the 2013 win at Talladega Superspeedway and a victory in the non-points-paying All-Star Race the following year.
Larson has carried the flag for CGR with five wins over the past two years. But clearly, there’s something separating his car from McMurray’s. For one car to do so well and the other to spend six years floundering in mediocrity, I’m struggling to accept that a mere driver change is the answer to all their problems.
How anyone can look at the potential of both rides and even consider moving to Ganassi is beyond me. There’s nothing about that situation that would make it superior to the ultra-efficient operation that Tony Stewart and Gene Haas have put together.
Perhaps Busch knows something that I don’t. But on the surface, he appears to be happy at SHR. He has been to Victory Lane with three different Cup teams and undoubtedly understands the formula for success within an organization.
Plus, sponsor Monster Energy appears to be committed to staying with Busch. As they end their title sponsorship of the series, that’s a massive upside to be able to hang onto the brand that many people will continue to associate with motorsports.
This is a results-driven industry. The car Busch drives at Stewart-Haas has delivered the results. Someone needs to grab a hold of Busch and shake him enough to get his attention. His opportunity to be a contender will be no better anywhere else than it is at SHR.
But he doesn’t need to take my word for it. All he has to do is look at the results. -Frank Velat
One and Done
In 2006, Jamie McMurray replaced Kurt Busch at Roush Fenway Racing, and now, it’s time for Busch to return the favor.
This move should be a no-brainer for Ganassi, as Busch has been far more successful than McMurray, but the move would benefit Busch as well. Sure, Stewart-Haas is the best team in NASCAR… right now. The team’s gap over the competition will lessen, especially with the Camaro getting better every week and Ford switching to the Mustang next year.
In the long run, the switch should benefit Ford, but it will struggle next year just like Chevrolet has this year. At 40 years old, Busch doesn’t have too many seasons left in him — he can’t afford to spend one waiting for the Blue Ovals to catch up.
It’s not like SHR is far superior to CGR. Just one year ago, Kyle Larson won more races than all four SHR cars put together. Say what you will about the guy, but since Rob Kauffman put his money into Ganassi, the cars have greatly improved. Larson has been the best Chevy for most of this season.
Another reason Busch should leave is that he’s essentially the fourth car at SHR. We all know from watching Hendrick Motorsports over the years that the fourth car, or the forgotten car, struggles even when his teammates are competing championships. Now, SHR has managed to keep its teams more even than HMS, but it still seems that Kevin Harvick gets the team’s best stuff.
Clint Bowyer has won two races this year and Aric Almirola should’ve won a few times, but you can’t really say that about Busch. He hasn’t had that lights out speed to win races, but he’s still fourth in points, which speaks to his talent as a driver. But he’s definitely a victim of “the fourth car syndrome” right now.
The beauty of going to a two-car team is that you’re bound to get at least some of the team’s best equipment. Think about how evenly good both Team Penske cars were when it was a two-car team. Busch would obviously still be overshadowed by Larson, but it would be a different situation.
At SHR, Busch is overshadowed by Harvick, and the two were rookies together, so there is still that competitiveness between the two. Look no further than the end of stage 1 from Chicagoland Speedway this season and you’ll see that the two don’t really work well together.
Larson, on the other hand, is a rising star that still has a lot to learn. Busch would thrive at Ganassi by accepting a role as a mentor to Larson. Plus, Busch could probably pick up a trick or two from a young driver like Larson.
Ganassi’s No. 1 team seems to have plenty of sponsorship from McDonald’s and Cessna — throw Monster Energy into the fold if it comes with Busch, and that team will have plenty of money to play with. And of course, money equals speed.
Driving with the No. 1 would be a cool perk in itself. In open wheel racing circles, the reigning champion is always given the No. 1. So any open wheel fans turning on a NASCAR race would see Busch in the No. 1 and assume that he was the best driver.
Busch needs to win races and compete for championships now because his time is limited. He’s now in his fifth season with SHR, and the pairing has only produced five wins and never finished inside the top five in points. It’s been a year-and-a-half since the No. 41’s last trip to Victory Lane and that was a restrictor plate track. It’s time for both parties to move in separate directions to try to better themselves.
With Busch, the only option to do that would be in the No. 1 Chevy. -Michael Massie