If you didn’t know he was 40 years old, the numbers tell you Kurt Busch may be near the top of his game.
Sure, he’s in his first season with Chip Ganassi Racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, still working out the kinks that come along with joining a new organization and new manufacturer. But he’s on par with (and most of the time outrunning) his teammate Kyle Larson and challenging for wins.
If Monday’s race at Michigan International Speedway were a few laps longer, Busch may have wound up in victory lane. A second-place finish (tied for his best of 2019) highlighted the Las Vegas native’s season to date, one that started off extremely well with four straight top fives and seven top 10s in the first 10 races.
However, 2019 may be Busch’s final year as a full-time Cup competitor.
He signed a one-year contract with CGR this offseason, bringing sponsorship from Monster Energy along. So far, ComSurv, Global Poker and Gear Wrench have also served as primary sponsors, meaning Monster’s support of the No. 1 is in a limited capacity.
But he’s been relatively open that this may indeed be it for him, a former champion and 30-time winner at the sport’s highest level. During the rare off weekend, he’ll be overseas in France, checking out the 24 Hours of Le Mans — an event that may lend some credence to the possibility of his 2020 plans, per NBC Sports.
“My first step is next week to go with Chip Ganassi to Le Mans and check out the GT program that he has and to experience Le Mans as a fan,” Busch said. “And also can I get a ride for next year and see how that plays out and does the schedule work out next year.”
It wouldn’t be the first time a NASCAR driver of consequence has stopped into the sports car world. Most recently, AJ Allmendinger, Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Gordon and others have participated in the 24 Hours of Daytona, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. doing so with his late father in 2001.
If Busch were to leave NASCAR at season’s end, his career would be remembered as, ultimately, a really damn successful one, consisting of 30 wins, a championship and being one of those drivers with as much raw talent behind the wheel as anybody to sit in a stock car.
It’ll also be remembered for what could have been — plus the outbursts, leading to firings, leading to landing rides at smaller, non-established teams while Busch was in his prime (according to some).
If he walks away, I’ll be left wondering what could be.
This dude has more to give. David Smith of Motorsports Analytics and The Athletic preaches that a driver’s peak age is 39. Busch will turn 41 later this summer.
OK, he’s past his prime. But I’m not going to list all the drivers that won races and contended for championships past the age of 39.
Whatever Busch chooses to do beyond 2019, whether it be staying in NASCAR, exploring sports cars with Ganassi’s inventory, foraying into IndyCar or anything in between, one thing is certain.
He’ll be damn good at it. Always has been, always will be.