Sources: Penske to review Kurt Busch
Penske Racing officials are meeting Monday to determine the future of driver Kurt Busch, sources confirmed Sunday.
Penske officials were contacted by ESPN.com on Sunday, but would not confirm or deny the meeting over Busch's status, while the Charlotte Observer reported that Busch has been fired.
Busch, who drives the No. 22 Dodge for the organization in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, has been involved in several behavior incidents on the track this season, including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch made an obscene hand gesture leaving the track after his transmission failure early in the race. He also had a profanity-laced tirade at ESPN's Dr. Jerry Punch and his camera crew in the garage moments later, which went viral on YouTube.
NASCAR later penalized Busch $50,000 for the two incidents. Penske officials, along with team sponsors Shell Pennzoil, publicly reprimanded Busch afterward.
"These actions do not represent Penske Racing and are inconsistent with the company's standards for behavior, respect for others and professionalism," the team said in a statement.
"Shell and Pennzoil are disappointed with recent actions by driver, Kurt Busch, at the final race of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race season," the company said in a statement. "His actions are in no way consistent with the way we want our brands represented and we have expressed our disappointment and concerns directly to Penske Racing."
Sources confirmed that Shell Pennzoil officials have spoken with team owner Roger Penske and expressed concerns about Busch continuing as the driver.
Penske spokesman Bud Denker and Walt Czarnecki, the executive vice president of Penske Corportation, said they will stand by their comment made after Busch was fined by NASCAR that they will not comment further until their internal review is complete.
Busch, 33, was the Cup champion in 2004, the first year of the Chase playoff format. He finished 11th in the 12-driver Chase this season. It was one spot ahead of his younger brother Kyle Busch, who missed the Texas Motor Speedway event during the 10-event playoff when NASCAR forced him to sit out for disciplinary reasons.
Kyle Busch intentionally wrecked Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution during a Camping World Truck Series race two days before the TMS Cup race.
Kurt Busch had an earlier incident with reporters this season at Richmond in September, the final event before the Chase started. He had to be restrained from a NASCAR.com reporter on pit road. Busch also tore another reporter's interview transcript in half after being questioned about recorded comments that he denied making.
Last week in Las Vegas, Busch said he was seeing a sports psychologist to deal with his anger issues.
"It's personal, of course," Kurt Busch said. "Working with a sports psychologist I've gotten a small grasp, but there's obviously bigger things I have to accomplish. Things can't happen overnight."
Steve Addington, Kurt Busch's crew chief, left the team at the end of the season after almost weekly verbal abuse from Busch on the team radio during races. Addington is replacing Darian Grubb as the crew chief for Tony Stewart, who won the 2011 Cup championship.
Terry Blount and David Newton cover NASCAR for ESPN.com. Marty Smith is the lead NASCAR reporter for ESPN and NASCAR Now. Blount can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Newton can be reached at email@example.com.
MORE RACING HEADLINES
- Phoenix Racing hires B. Labonte for Daytona
- Dillon to drive Dale Sr.'s No. 3 in Sprint Cup
- Kahne, Stewart will honor Leffler at Chili Bowl
- NASCAR runs simulations to set 2014 rules