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Jul 28, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart during drivers introductions prior to the Samuel Deeds 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

BTF Opinions: Staff weighs in on Kurt Busch, JPM, Tony Stewart and More

Aug 16, 2013; Brooklyn, MI, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch during practice for the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Every so often, the staff of Beyond the Flag will come together to give our readers our opinions on the biggest stories in racing. Below you will find the first installment of “BTF Opinions.” Enjoy! ~Katie

Thoughts on the possibility of Kurt Busch to SHR

Katie Copple: The idea of Kurt Busch moving to SHR next season scares me. Why? Stewart-Haas Racing struggled this season adding a third full time ride on top of a brand new car. If they couldn’t really handle that in 2013 how will they handle two new drivers PLUS a forth team? Danica Patrick won’t have a chance at the Chase next season, which is just a fact. She is still green in NASCAR (no pun intended). Trying to get Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Busch all in to the Chase in 2014 will be near impossible for a team who is just starting to figure out how to work with three full time teams. I’m not saying Busch should never go to SHR. In fact, I think it would be a great place for him…down the road. Busch needs to stay with Furniture Row Racing in 2014. Look what he has done for that team so far this season! He has taken this one-car team to new heights and is in Chase contention. Stick with them one more season; let SHR figure out their three-car team and new teammate, then move over in 2015. Busch has a lot of racing left in him and making the right move at the right time is going to be key in getting him back up in to Championship contention.

William Babbington: Before the start of the season I’d have said a great move, but SHR has really struggled this year, the fact Kurt is currently in a Chase spot and no SHR drivers are emphasizes that. Kurt would certainly not be happy to be in a car that struggles for pace every race. But he has the skills and knows how to help drag them back up and if he can cope with not being the ‘big fish’ than he could do very well there.

Les Bailey: I think Kurt Busch is exactly what SHR needs. Let’s face it, Danica is not going to contend for a Cup title anytime soon, if ever, and Ryan Newman has spent his career under-achieving. With Kevin Harvick coming over, that would give SHR a good one-two punch without Tony having to carry the load. Dale Earnhardt was the only successful Owner-Driver, and the key to his success was that he didn’t drive for the team he owned.

Michael Finley: Rick Hendrick is the king of NASCAR. Every single Cup champion since 2005 is either with Hendrick or once was a part of the Hendrick “family”. Kurt Busch should definitely go with SHR over EGR, which hasn’t competed for wins near as consistently as the Stewart guys.

Daryle Hier: That Kurt Busch even has a ride at all in NASCAR right now is almost comical; but as I’ve said in the past, his performance on the track shows what a true champion he is, no matter if you like him or not.  The nonconstructive and circus-like atmosphere that has surrounded Kurt for the last few years makes this possibility of him moving to Stewart-Haas Racing that much more astounding.  Smoke wouldn’t let Busch get out of hand.

What will happen to Juan Pablo Montoya?

KC: Unfortunately, I think Montoya’s time in stock cars is over after 2013. Since coming into the scene, he has had one season where he really showed promise. Since that season in 2009, he has been mediocre at best with a few moments here and there where he contended for wins and top-5 finishes. JPM is a fantastic and talented driver, his resume shows that, but I don’t think stock cars and NASCAR is where he belongs. I think he would do great things in IndyCar and open wheel racing. If the reports of a deal with Andretti are correct, I hope JPM takes them up on their offer and heads over to the IndyCar Series in 2014.

WB: As a big JPM fan I really hope that he stays in NASCAR. I was worried when I first heard the news that he might have become disillusioned with the sport and wanting out. But it’s been nice to read reports that he is very keen to stay in the sport. As to where he might go, if Kurt leaves Furniture Row that could be a very good spot for him. A competitive team, that would still have a driver that can bring sponsorship and media attention to it.

LB: JPM has wasted enough of people’s time. With Ganassi Racing not being a top tier team being said, Juan just doesn’t have the redneck roundy-round mentality to win at this level. He couldn’t even get around the blower truck without hitting it.

MF: Indy Car. Sorry but I don’t see him going anywhere else in NASCAR. There is a very faint possibility he could go to the 78, but we currently have such a log jam of young drivers in the Nationwide series such as a Hornish Jr. or a Trevor Bayne or even a guy like Regan Smith returning to the team, along with vets in the Cup series looking for rides such as AJ (Who should be driving full time right now), Bobby Labonte, Ryan Newman, Jeff Burton (Don’t think his job isn’t up for grabs) even David Ragan (A little birdy tells me the Front Row guys are free agents for next season as of now, could return but might not)

DH: From most reports, Montoya leaving Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (EGR) was Chip trying to do everything he can to change the chemistry at EGR and J.P. agreeing that they should part ways.  Montoya said he wants a winning ride and has enjoyed his time with Chip “but I miss dominating”.  So, I can’t see another NASCAR team picking him up.  I wrote this past week that IndyCar is where J.P. should end his career.

Matt Schafer: If Michael Andretti has anything to do with Montoya’s future he’ll have another five to ten years ahead of him in the IZOD IndyCar series. Montoya and Andretti have already have had serious discussions that included salary and Montoya seems more interested in getting into a winner than he does getting a salary. If he comes back to IndyCar he’ll be welcomed with open arms.

Ryan Newman: What is next?

KC: Ryan Newman has never really been a Championship Contender type of driver but he is definitely a good wheelman. There are a number of places that Newman could go in 2014 and some are top quality rides. I could easily see Newman fitting in at Richard Childress Racing and having him and Austin Dillon on the same team would be great for RCR. I could also see Newman and Kurt Busch “swapping” rides and driving the No.78 for Furniture Row. I don’t think it is time for Newman to hang up the racing shoes just yet. I believe he still has some good racing year’s left in him; he just needs to find the right team.

WB: With the rumors about Kurt going to SHR there’s probably no one more motivated/annoyed than Newman in the pits right now. To be told a team can afford to keep you only to than read the stories that the team owners might be paying for a driver to come in must really hammer his confidence. That aside I think he’s got plenty of options for next season, Penske, Furniture Row, RCR to name but three. If Penske can race three cars next year than that would be a really good fit for him. He knows the team and had a very successful period in is career with them and would make a very strong teammate for Keselowski and Logano.

Aug 10, 2013; Watkins Glen, NY, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman (39) during qualifying for the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

LB: As I stated earlier, Ryan Newman has under-achieved for a career, but his only success came at Roush. Maybe it’s time to accept the fact that he isn’t a top line driver, and shoo him off to the trucks with all the other under-achieving Cup has-beens. He had a great opportunity at SHR in Chevy’s running Hendricks engines. Everybody has won with that combo…. except Jr.

MF: This is a crazy silly season, very unpredictable right now. I’d wager a guess and say that Newman goes to RCR, driving a 4th car or the 31. There are all sorts of possibilities for Newman, heck he could just say “forget this” and go retire to sprint cars and short track racing for all we know.

DH: As far as where Ryan Newman goes is something I can’t put my finger on, other than what other reports say about Penske, Childress or, maybe a swap with Busch’s empty seat at Furniture Row Racing. I will say Newman must be miffed that SHR doesn’t have support for him yet they do have funding for Kurt Busch – and yes, I did hear that Ryan isn’t bitter about the Busch offer. However, I just wonder how good of friends Ryan and Tony are now.

Thoughts on Tony Stewart?

KC: It seems like everywhere you look, there is an article on Tony Stewart saying he shouldn’t drive sprint cars anymore and just focus on Sprint Cup. There is just one little problem with that. Take the sprint car racing away from Stewart, and you take away a part of who he is. The main reason for Stewart-Haas Racing’s existence is because Stewart wanted to race these cars all season long and no one else would let him do that. Stewart isn’t going to give up racing his sprint cars and he wouldn’t have been doing it in the first place if his sponsors hadn’t supported it. Yes, it really stinks that he broke his leg and is out for the rest of the season but that could have happened in a stock car race as well (ex. Denny Hamlin and his back). Stewart is going to get right back in that sprint car without a second thought and heck; he may just be back in that car before he is back in the No.14.

WB: I wrote an article on Stewart a few weeks back basically saying you can’t change him and if you tried to he probably wouldn’t be the same driver he is now. Drivers want to race but when they are also a team owner they need to think of the bigger picture. Rick Hendrick has told Kasey Kahne that he’d prefer him not to race sprint cars but as Tony is half owner there’s nobody to tell him the same thing. The fact he has cost his team a chance at a championship, which has a knock on financial aspect and in terms can directly effect staff at SHR should have been enough to stop him or for someone to tell him to reconsider.

LB: It’s time for Tony Stewart to put his full effort back into his Cup ride, and quit trying to do a Kenny Schrader impression of trying to run every dirt track in the US. A good job for him would be running SHR, and if he wants to run Outlaws, let someone else have his cup ride. Do you think Rick Hendrick would put up with less than 100% effort in his cup cars? He doesn’t even like for his top stars to run Nationwide cars, or trucks, he demands full effort in their cup rides.

MF: Tony Stewart is a lot like Bobby Allison in some ways; in that Bobby was the only other mega star in modern NASCAR history who was well known for moonlighting as a short track driver. If I remember right, Bobby once said he raced in 90 races alone in 1987. And how did Bobby Allison end up broke, divorced, and suffering from brain problems, which robbed him of remembering his greatest moment (1988 Daytona 500, beating his son and celebrating together in Victory Lane, which he doesn’t remember to this day) not even 10 years later? A Pocono wreck in a Cup car. The moral of the story is that it doesn’t matter what is being driven, you can be injured in car racing. To relate it to the common man, saying “Tony shouldn’t of been driving in races outside of Cup” is like saying “You shouldn’t of walked into McDonalds to grab breakfast before work, you should of just used the drive thru or not go at all” if you went to McDonalds and you trip, fall, broke your ankle in the parking lot, you could of just as easily done it at home or at work, location doesn’t matter.

DH: Did anyone really think Stewart would do all of this extra racing without any chance of getting hurt?  I believe his sponsors probably have his back; but, by missing over one third of the season and therefore out of the Chase, has to hurt his relationships with his marketing partners.  Mark Martin was a good hire and adds consistency to the #14 team for the rest of the season, plus he’ll do a more than adequate job for Tony.  And yes, Smoke will be back next year, even if he has to hobble around, but as far as the extracurricular racing … ?

Tags: Danica Patrick Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing Furniture Row Racing Hendrick Motorsports Juan Pablo Montoya Kevin Harvick Kurt Busch Mark Martin Richard Childress Racing Ryan Newman Stewart-Haas Racing Tony Stewart

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