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Kurt Busch looks ahead

Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012

How does the saying go?

To fix a problem, first you must admit there is one.

In the weeks and months since Penske Racing announced driver Kurt Busch would not be returning to the organization in 2012, Busch has made it abundantly clear he recognizes he has a problem.

Is it corrected? Time will tell.

“I’ve always been guilty of doing things the hard way, and working hard instead of smart I guess is my mentality,” Busch said.

In November, NASCAR fined Busch $50,000 for the use of an obscene gesture and a profanity-laced tirade directed toward a media member during the Sprint Cup series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The incident with ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch, which took place in the garage after Busch’s car broke its transmission, was caught on video and posted on YouTube.

In early December, Penske and Busch parted ways after six seasons and 10 race victories. The Homestead incident capped what was a turbulent season for Busch, who got in verbal confrontations with media members and heated exchanges over the radio with his crew chief at the time, Steve Addington.

“My objective is to keep the eye on 2013’s big prize, and going in and talking with as many teams as I did this offseason, my original plan was to work with as many groups as I possibly could, find four or five races with these guys, those guys, run Nationwide, do this, Trucks even, and associate myself with as many sponsors, teams and people,” Busch said.

“That way they get to know me and go, ‘Wow, what’s really the problem here?’, and the problem is when there’s a bad day on the track, that’s when there’s the only issue.”

So, Busch in a sense will try to start over.

He will run the 2012 Cup season with Phoenix Racing, a one-car operation owned by James Finch. Busch is also expected to run several races in the Nationwide Series with a team owner by his younger brother, Kyle Busch.

It appears Kurt Busch will have plenty of opportunities to race in 2012. The key will be to handle the results better than he did last season in hopes of earning another chance at a top-notch ride in 2013.

“Yes, 2012 is going to be a unique year for somebody such as myself,” Busch said. “But to take a step back for me personally and look at all of this, this is what I need.”

While Finch’s operation is competitive at many tracks and he has a Cup win and a handful of Nationwide wins to his credit, Busch will find life on the Cup side in 2012 much more difficult, at least in terms of consistently being in the hunt for wins.

The team got off to a good start, however, bringing a very fast car to last week’s preseason testing session at Daytona International Speedway.

“We’re going to be just fine going through all this,” Busch said. “And we might exceed our expectations, we might not live up to it, but we’re going to have a darned good time while we’re doing it.

“So, getting back to old-school racing, having fun with it, the pressure is not there. But when we go week to week and go to Phoenix, Vegas, into Bristol, we’ll start to learn more about the cars, where we stack up.

“It’s not going to take winning to make me happy.”

Should Busch be right, he may well be on his way to capturing his 2013 “big prize.”

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