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Friday, December 9, 2011
David Ragan meets with Penske Racing

By David Newton
ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE -- David Ragan has met with Penske Racing officials about replacing Kurt Busch.

Busch's future could hinge on whether Ragan is hired.

James Finch, the owner of Phoenix Racing, said he had a deal with Ragan to drive the No. 51 Chevrolet next season subject "to him getting a better deal.''

That possibility happened Monday, when Busch was released by Penske Racing, leaving the No. 22 with sponsor Shell Pennzoil open.

Finch told ESPN.com on Friday that Ragan contacted him Thursday to say he met with Roger Penske in Detroit and planned to meet next week with Shell Pennzoil officials.

Ragan confirmed he met with Penske and other officials and planned to "follow up next week.''

Ragan asked for his release from Roush Fenway Racing on Monday to pursue the Penske opening. Ragan's No. 6 Cup ride at RFR was shut down for 2012 due to lack of sponsorship.

Meanwhile, Finch said Busch contacted him about driving for his Spartanburg, S.C. -based organization.

"I told him I'd meet with him and see what's going on,'' Finch said. "I haven't decided who I am going to put in my car next year. He wasn't necessarily at the top of the list.''

Finch said Busch's behavior that led to what was described as a "mutual'' split with Penske Racing wouldn't discourage him from hiring the 2004 Cup champion. He also said he wouldn't tolerate Busch's sometimes volatile behavior.

"Kurt, his talent is pretty good,'' Finch said. "He's one of the best there is, but I'm not going to listen to that s--- and pay him money.''

Finch jokingly said he would make Jimmy Spencer, who as a driver had a long feud with Busch in the early 2000s, Busch's crew chief.

"(Kurt) needs to simmer down a while,'' Finch said. "He's never done anything to me personally. He just needs to look in the mirror and see what the problem is.''

Busch admitted last week in Las Vegas during champion's week that he is working with a sports psychologist to deal with anger issues that reached a peak in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

After his car suffered catastrophic transmission failure early in the race, Busch lashed out at ESPN's Dr. Jerry Punch with a profanity-laced tirade that went viral on YouTube. It was the third such public display of anger against the media this season.

Busch also has been volatile over his in-car radio with his team and owner.

"I'm not going to take that,'' Finch said.

Finch split last season between four drivers, with Landon Cassill competing in 29 of the 36 races. Cassill's best finish was 12th at Michigan as he compiled an average finish of 28.8.

Finch's car that finished 30th in owner's points and is supplied engines by Hendrick Motorsports is considered by many the best available ride outside the top teams. Finch said that a driver such as Busch would elevate the organization to a potential chase contender.

But Finch said he has options outside of Busch and Ragan. He has talked with former race winners David Reutimann and Brian Vickers, as well.

"Kurt said he wants to go to Daytona and get squared away again,'' Finch said. "I'm just going to wait around. He might be in a hurry, but I'm not.''

Finch speculated that Front Row Motorsports also might be interested in Busch, but general manager Jerry Freeze said he's had no contact and is moving forward with plans to field two cars with Travis Kvapil and David Gilliland.

"We'd be open to talk for sure,'' Freeze said. "But it would be hard. We're pretty happy with the guys that drove for us last year. Everything we've been working on sponsorship-wise has been centered around those guys.''

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.