Friday, September 28, 2012
Kurt Busch in No. 78 for Charlotte
By David Newton
DOVER, Del. -- Kurt Busch will drive the final six races for Furniture Row Racing in an effort to prepare for a 2013 season he hopes will end with a first-ever trip to the Chase for the Denver-based team.
"We want to be that gang that shows up at Daytona as a team with an asterisk next to it, and that means we have a shot to win,'' Busch said on Friday at Dover International Speedway.
Busch was named Regan Smith's replacement for 2013 earlier in the week, but the decision was made over the past couple of days to put him in the No. 78 car after the Oct. 7 race at Talladega.
Busch's first race for his new team will be in the Oct. 13 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch has spent this season driving for underfunded and unsponsored Phoenix Racing. He is 25th in points, two spots behind Smith.
He called Furniture Row Racing a "diamond in the rough,'' arguing that anybody who calls it a lateral move is slapping team owner Barney Visser in the face.
Busch noted that the chassis at Phoenix Racing typically are four years old, that the team brings only eight people to the track, has only one engineer and has only two people working at the shop on a race weekend. Furniture Row typically works with a new chassis and has a team of 64 people with 40 at the shop each weekend preparing for upcoming races.
"It's a no-brainer,'' Busch said. "Anybody with a hard card knows the 78 has more potential in it.''
Busch signed a one-year deal with Furniture Row. He didn't rule out staying with the organization beyond next season even though his goal since being released by Penske Racing after the 2011 season has been to get back to a top team.
Several top rides will be available after next year. One will be at Richard Childress Racing, which supplies engines to Furniture Row. Team owner Richard Childress told ESPN.com earlier this month he wanted put Busch in a fourth car next season if sponsorship could be found.
"Who knows?'' said Busch, who was released from Penske Racing after the 2011 finale following a profanity-laced tirade aimed at ESPN's Dr. Jerry Punch. "I might not need to test the waters of the free-agent market. It's a matter of finding the comfort zone. I've been with big teams. I've had different teams happen. Taking this step back this year has allowed me to see how more of the integral part of how the sport works.''
"It's been refreshing to see all the different avenues, and I
feel much better prepared settling in with these guys. That's what the zone is right now these next six weeks.''
Smith has to test the market immediately. The 2011 Darlington Raceway winner was disappointed in Furniture Row's decision that has left him searching or a new ride in a tough economic environment.
"At first I was pretty mad, pretty disappointed is the best way I can put it,'' Smith told ESPN.com. "We've been out in Denver for over a year now. We've got our roots here. Now we've got to pack up and get back to North Carolina.
"I've got to be prepared to race out of there.''
Most of the Sprint Cup organizations are based in the Charlotte, N.C., area. Smith moved to Denver to be closer to the No. 78 team.
Smith began driving a partial schedule for Furniture in 2009 after winning the rookie of the year award in 2008 driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc., which shut down his team after the season.
The past two seasons driving a full schedule Smith finished 26th and 28th in points. He felt his team had turned the corner this season after adding Todd Berrier as crew chief. He had back-to-back ninth-place finishes at Pocono and Watkins Glen.
Over the past six races the team's best finish was 14th at Atlanta.
"The thing that disappoints me about it is I was there when things were not good,'' Smith said. "It's truly tough to know I won't get to enjoy the good times there.''
General manager Joe Garone said earlier in the year he hoped to expand to two teams, keeping Smith in the 78 and possibly adding Busch in the other. When the economics of that didn't work out he turned to Busch.
"It happened almost overnight, it seemed,'' Smith said. "There was very short notice.''