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(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

2-Headed Monster: Should Kurt Busch Move to Chip Ganassi Racing?

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

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8 comments

  1. Avatar

    This probably boils down to $$$

    Kurt signed a 1 year extension deal for way less then he felt he deserved. I would suspect it comes down to Chip can offer more money next year. From all rumors Kurt lives a pretty fabulous lifestyle. He may need more income to live the way he is accustomed too. Just 2 weeks ago on NASCAR America when asking Amirola about best gift giver at SHR said ‘That guy likes to spend some money’ (or something very similar.

    Other possibilities….

    Cole Custer is waiting in the wings at SHR. All reports are they are very high on Cole. He would almost certainly be cheaper attractive option than Kurt.

    Kevin and Kurt do NOT get along… Kevin is good friends with Clint and both Clint and Kevin are buddies with Smoke. I suspect some ear bending by Harvick might be forcing Kurt out.

  2. Avatar

    kurt and kyle are my favourite drivers would be bad day for harvick kurt wouldnt be drving the used equipment kevin done used

  3. Avatar

    Remember: Jamie McMurray was not successful in his first stint with Chip Ganassi in the 42 Texaco Havoline Chevrolet, He won two races in Jack Roush’s Ford Taures’s . He won the Daytona 500, World 600 and Brickyard 400 in the same year in his second stint with CGRwFS.

    I would call McMurray’s time at Ganassi well spent and if KuBu goes to the 1 car he will most likely be the lead driver which is something he has never been with Roush or SHR.

    Its a good move and maybe Jamie can replace Darrell Waltrip at FOX…or FOX can pay Carl Edwards whatever he wants and they can both replace DW and Michael Waltrip.

    • Avatar

      I don’t care who Fox gets to replace DW but it must be done! I am so sick of him and dread seeing him on TV and dread even more having to listen to him ramble on and on and on…….

    • Avatar

      Jamie has had a decent career. I am glad he has stuck around so long. Hopefully another year. What everyone seems to forget is sponsership is key in NASCAR. Jamie is really well liked and has had the same sponsers since 2010/11. Pretty impressive for a guy with only 7 career wins. Other than his first stint at ganassi he has always been the back up teammate. Id say he was pretty succesful in the havoline car as well back in the day. 11 and 12th in points. Lets be real he is not getting the same equipment as Larson. Or if he is, Larson just over performs and is a real amazing talent. Maybe he could take the 41 car for a year before Cole Custer is ready. Maybe even the 95 car. Get a win Jamie!

  4. Avatar
    William Sanseverino

    Gene Haas hired Kurt Busch without Tony Stewart’s approval when Stewart was recuperating after his big crash. He was not pleased as he and Kurt have never gotten along, just like Kurt and Harvick never have either. Up until Kurt joined SHR, he pretty much learned to keep his mouth shut about Harvick, but not the other way around. Harvick has always thought he was God’s gift, ever since he has picked to fill in when Dale Earnhardt died. SHR clearly did not re-new Kurt’s contract until WELL after the 2017 season ended…when every other ride was then taken, forcing Kurt to resign a one year contract at a dollar amount less than what he wanted and what he was worth. Stewart wants a team of who HE wants…he hired his BFF Harvick, who in turn wanted HIS BFF Bowyer in the fold. Stewart then brought on nice kid Almirola when they let Danica Patrick go. Harvick didn’t fight Bowyer hard for the win at Michigan earlier this year when the rain was coming (when Harvick had the better car) but he fought Kurt HARD for a stage point at Chicago. Watch both finishes. Stewart obviously has someone else in mind for the #41 team. Kurt will never win another race, let alone another championship, racing for SHR when his crew chief makes one late race blunder after blunder. I’ve counted at least 3 races Kurt more than likely would have won if it weren’t for his crew chief. I think he sees CGR as a possibility of at least winning a few more races before he finally retires, something that will probably never happen at SHR. Even though CGR is a Chevy team, I’m sure he also wants to find a team with more harmony rather than combativeness, like there is with SHR and Harvick. Like the article stated, he’s 4th in a team of 4. Who really wants that distinction?

  5. Avatar

    Sounds like you are a Chevrolet lover. I love seeing them struggle.

    • Avatar

      I’m with you, absolutely love seeing them struggle and not having to hear Hendricks this and that spewing out of their mouths.

      For Busch I wonder if it might be more to it. He’s expressed his allegiance for Ford so if he would go the Ganassi maybe Ganassi is going to switch to Ford since Ganassi is racing the Ford GT.

      Ford needs to get more young prospects in their camp. By opening up a seat at SHR and possible another at Ganassi who knows.