Kurt Busch is a changed man. The fire that he used to wear on his sleeve has since been extinguished. While the fire inside still burns as much as ever to succeed, Busch felt like when he joined Chip Ganassi Racing in 2019, it was time to make some changes to his persona.
The Las Vegas native heads back home this weekend as one of 12 drivers with a chance to hoist the NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy on Nov. 8 at the Phoenix Raceway. The changes that he’s made is what Busch feels like can eventually make this No. 1 Chevrolet team an eventual champion.
It all started with a change of scenery for him. See, Busch was well known in the past for his wild antics on the track and off of it. His attitude, not his skill, is what kept him from future contracts with past teams.
Busch, has won for almost every team that he’s ever driven for. He’s in his 20th full time season in NASCAR’s top level and he’s won at least one race in 16 of them. He’s also made the playoffs in 14 of 16 tries too.
That’s why he decided to bring that, not a temper, with him to Ganassi for the start of the 2019 season. He joined an organization with tons of success, but was taking over a car that to be honest, didn’t have as much on track success as it should have lately.
Nothing against Jamie McMurray, but that No. 1 car had just one win in its previous 288 starts. That victory came at Talladega in 2013. It had been since 2010 since that car had won on a non superspeedway racetrack.
Also, over those 288 starts, that car had no more than four top fives in a single season in seven years in an eight year span. It had only paced the field for just 34 laps since the start of the 2015 season.
Unfortunately, that car lacked success and they fell into the trap of complacency. So, Busch, 42, saw it was time to alter his path in NASCAR. His talent and acumen was never questioned. He was one of the most skilled drivers in the garage each year. His drawback was how he reacted to varying situations.
He had a chance to change the course and show who Kurt Busch really is. See, Kurt Busch isn’t a bad guy. He’s actually a great human. He’s a great son, a damn good husband to his wife, a great brother to Kyle and great uncle to Brexton. The fiery exchanges over the years have overshadowed what a great person Kurt actually is.
With Ganassi, his true character is being able to shine. He is giving a team without much past success reason for hope. He’s put them in the postseason in each of his two years in that ride. He builds the team up instead of tearing them down with mistakes. He’s a voice of reason and out front of everything for them.
He not only has their back, he has their front.
In return, he gives them everything he’s got. So why the drastic change?
“I figured it was time for some change and adapt to my age and to utilize my experience the best way possible,” Busch told me on Thursday. “That’s to create that levelheadedness. To create that leadership, mentor role. I feel like at this time in my life, it’s time to give back to young engineers, young crewmembers to help them come through the ranks quicker, better and stronger.
“It’s just a nice fit with Chip Ganassi. Racing for a legend like him who has that tenacity. Who has that fire and desire to win every single week. There’s only so much room for those big egos and he helps me moderate mine. That’s part of the combination on why it works so well and being able to deliver good results over there.”
Busch, knows that this team will go as far as they want. He feels confident that the speed is gaining on this team by the week. They’re quicker in the playoffs than they were in the five or six races leading up to it and know that they just need to be perfect in order to keep marching on.
Eventually, a breakthrough is coming again. Why not now? Watch out for Busch for the duration of his time at CGR.