Kurt Busch has been rumored to be leaving Stewart-Haas Racing for Chip Ganassi Racing, replacing Jamie McMurray. What’s next for Busch’s career?
Michael Finley: It;s really up to Kurt Busch at this point. His legacy is secured; not too many people have won both a championship and a Daytona 500. He’s running pretty well, and a move to CGR would be very interesting to see. I’m not sold on CGR being that great of a team; Kyle Larson is really just that good of a driver. Busch is a substantial upgrade over Jamie McMurray and should be able to prove whether or not it’s the driver or the team that’s the problem with the No. 1.
Mark Howell: Busch will be fine wherever he lands a ride. Going to CGR seems to be a good move in that he will have less direct competition with which to deal; it’s difficult to make waves with solid performances when you have a teammate winning everything but the lottery. While it’d be nice to see Busch stay on at SHR, having him behind the wheel of a CGR Chevrolet would hardly be a lateral move. Those cars, like Busch, have the potential to win.
Amy Henderson: If the rumor is true, Busch moving to the No. 1 benefits CGR more than Busch in terms of performance. Busch was perhaps the easiest driver for SHR to move along to open a door for Cole Custer; he’s 40 and hasn’t won a race this year. CGR has needed to make a change with the No. 1 team for a year or two now, and Busch, when he’s on his game, makes sense. He’s not going to land a better ride then the No. 1 at this point.
Wesley Coburn: He’s always kind of been the one on the outside at SHR, going back to his hiring in 2013, when Gene Haas went behind Tony Stewart’s back to get him. Maybe it’s time to move on? But if it were me, there’s no way I’d leave SHR right now. He’s ranked fourth in the standings and has a legitimate shot to win another championship. SHR doesn’t seem to have plans to move Custer up next season, so finish out 2019, then call it a career if you want. I don’t see how the No. 1 would help Busch’s performance, though there is some irony if that turns out to be true, as Stewart wanted Kyle Larson to replace him in the No. 14. Can you imagine how scary that would be for the competition?
Clayton Caldwell: This is a pure money grab by a veteran driver who doesn’t want to take a pay cut. Ganassi is good, but SHR has had the best season it’s ever had in 2018. Why else would you leave that organization? It comes down to the amount of money SHR was going to pay vs. the amount of money CGR is willing to pay.
Mike Neff: Busch is still a very competent driver who could potentially win a title this year if things align perfectly. That said, SHR is looking for Custer to move up, and it seems Busch would be the odd man out. Moving to Ganassi puts him in competitive Chevy equipment and gives him another shot at running Indianapolis Motor Speedway again. It would be a great move for the 2004 champion.
There have been rumors surrounding JTG Daugherty Racing, with names such as Daniel Hemric and Ryan Preece replacing AJ Allmendinger and Chris Buescher. Is it time for JTG to switch things up?
Finley: Putting those names into the mix wouldn’t really improve JTG all that much. People forget that Chris Buescher was at one point a fairly dominant XFINITY Series champion and was probably better than both Daniel Hemric and Ryan Preece prior to moving up to Cup. It might be better at this point for the team to enter a stronger alliance than the one it has with Richard Childress Racing if it really wants to improve results.
Koelle: It’s tough. AJ Allmendinger hasn’t performed lately but has been with the team for a while now, so the experience he has could be beneficial down the road. Then again, Hemric definitely would be a good move for JTG, because he could grow and help build the organization. Preece still needs a full season in XFINITY in good equipment before heading to Cup, so replace Allmendinger with Hemric and keep Buescher.
Howell: The time is right for JTG to make significant changes. While Allmendinger bounced back following his substance abuse issues, he’s been unable to make the big breakthrough we expected. Buescher has a win (a rain-shortened race at Pocono Raceway in July 2016), but it’s not exactly the kind of success upon which to build a lengthy career with one team. The cars at JTG are mid-pack with its current drivers. Hemric and Preece would certainly be on my short list for Cup rides with the organization.
Henderson: I’m not so sure cleaning out the whole building is a great idea. One driver change, maybe, because the team does need to up its performance. But which one is another story. Allmendinger hasn’t been a contender much lately and he’s older, but he’s popular and he’s often he best of the field of small-team drivers, so it’s not like he isn’t doing what he needs to in the seat. On the other hand, Buescher is younger and has talent — he didn’t win the XFINITY title without talent — but he’s struggled in the Cup Series. Hemric and Preece don’t seem like the right choices; Hemric hasn’t won in a top NXS ride, and Preece could really use a full season under his belt in that series before making the jump to Cup almost directly from Modifieds. I have to wonder if the Hemric thing isn’t the same as Ty Dillon‘s deal with Germain Racing — RCR wants to keep him close, but not in the main stable, so the easy thing to do is give the satellite team something (i.e. better equipment) to get it to put him in the seat.
Neff: I can see the team moving on from Allmendinger. He’s had time to prove himself there, and it just hasn’t come together. Buescher doesn’t seem to have received enough of a fair shake yet; it would be nice to see him get another year or two. That said, Preece has proven he can win in XFINITY and is ready to move up. As talented as Hemric is, he hasn’t won yet. Sure, there have been drivers who have moved up without wins — heck, there are several currently running in the top series — but it would be nice to see Hemric win an XFINITY race before moving up.
Coburn: Maybe. Here’s a hypothetical situation: Move Hemric up to the main team, taking Ryan Newman‘s seat, and scoot Newman over to the No. 47. He’s an engineer, so that seems like it would be a tremendous asset in improving the cars. Or put McMurray in the No. 47, as he’s a mid-pack driver and restrictor-plate ace, which fits JTG pretty well. Also, McMurray works well with sponsors, and since AXE Products is one of the many sponsors that team has, it seems like a natural fit. Either way, a veteran’s experience would be beneficial to Buescher.
Bristol Motor Speedway has become known for driver introduction songs. What would your driver intro song be and why?
Finley: Speaking of Buescher, it’s a tragedy that Slim Jim isn’t his sponsor this week. I really, really want somebody sponsored by Slim Jim to come out to “Pomp and Circumstance” wearing the “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s neon cowboy outfit. As far as myself, really anything Matt Kenseth picks. I was shocked one year going through the song list and found him coming out to a Trivium song at a NASCAR race literally in between Tennessee and Virginia, but it turns out he’s always coming out to something metal.
Koelle: “Something from Nothing” by Foo Fighters. I am a huge fan of the Foo Fighters, and when this song was released it just stuck with me like glue. I have literally built something from nothing. I didn’t go to school for journalism — I built a blog in 2015 and built it into what it became on my own. I have taken a different path to this point, but without what I built, I don’t think I would be at Frontstretch today.
Howell: “Sex Machine”, the 1971 hit by the late, great James Brown. One refrain in the song is “Get on up,” which is where I’d likely run once the second, higher groove got worked in. Another repeated phrase is “Hit me,” which seems ideal for what is inevitable during the Bristol night race. Being introduced by the Godfather of Soul would only reaffirm my status as The Hardest Working Man in Show Business. And what is NASCAR if not a high-speed derivative of show business. I’d be “on the scene, like a sex…” you get the idea.
Henderson: Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch.” Because it’s about being who and what you are, and that it’s OK to have more than one facet. People shouldn’t have to change who they are to be accepted in life. And face it, the song is a little badass.
Caldwell: “East Bound and Down” by Jerry Reed. For obvious reasons.
Neff: “The Game” by Motorhead, because I frequently utilize it while announcing and it is a great song to set the mood for the evening. A close second would be “Ladies and Gentlemen” by Saliva, an ideal introduction song.
Coburn: Brad Paisley’s “Southern Comfort Zone” or “Country Nation.” They are racing in Tennessee, after all. Both also are a good reminder to a splintered NASCAR fanbase that things will be OK, they might just look a little different than they used to.
Justin Allgaier and Christopher Bell have combined to win seven of the last 13 XFINITY Series races. Does either one stand out as the title favorite at this point?
Finley: Justin Allgaier over Christopher Bell right now just because of experience. He hasn’t won a championship yet, but he hasn’t mentally blocked himself from ever winning it like Elliott Sadler has.
Koelle: Both need this championship mentally. Allgaier needs it to keep himself in the conversation for a Hendrick Motorsports Cup ride down the road, and Bell needs it to prove to Joe Gibbs Racing that he’s ready to move up to Cup. It’d also help his resume should he have to leave Gibbs and find somewhere else. Those two will end up at Homestead-Miami Speedway in contention for the championship at the end of the season. Hemric can’t be looked past and Austin Cindric will be driving a Team Penske car the entire playoffs, so that’s your final four.
Coburn: Bell, because as a group the JGR cars are way stronger than the JR Motorsports cars. Bell also has lots of veteran feedback to rely on from Kyle Busch and Hamlin, and is also the first XFINITY driver in 20 years to win three straight races. It’s really only a question of how many more races he’ll win this season before going to the LFR No. 95 next year, given Kasey Kahne‘s retirement.
Howell: While both drivers have demonstrated their worthiness of this year’s XFINITY championship, I lean toward Allgaier as the overall favorite. He drives for perpetual powerhouse JR Motorsports, he has a loyal sponsor in Brandt and he’s certainly paid his competitive dues for the past several years. While Bell is a talented young driver, the name on the XFINITY trophy come November should be Allgaier’s. It’s his time to shine.
Henderson: While there’s plenty of time in the playoffs for someone else to shine, those two look like they could wage a great battle for the trophy in November. I give Bell a slight edge because of his JGR equipment, but Allgaier has certainly proven himself worthy as well.