Roger Penske has been a key figure in helping drivers rebuild their careers. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Drivers Rebuilding Careers In NASCAR


If nothing else, the 2013 NASCAR season has been interesting.  From broken bones and jumping restarts, to an over-hyped new Gen-6 car and reviving careers, the year has been full of intrigue with comings and goings that could fill a book.  As far as rebuilding careers are concerned, 2013 has some legitimate positive stories.  And what are some of the feel-good accounts where drivers have rebuilt their careers after nearly being out of the sport?

Big names

Furniture Row Racing has helped Kurt Busch rebuild his career while also putting them into the Chase for the first time.
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously, as far the biggest name for rebuilding a career it’s Kurt Busch.  Kurt let his temper get the best of him and after losing an excellent gig at Penske, Busch languished with Phoenix Racing last year before hooking up with another independent: Furniture Row Racing.  The organization hadn’t ever had a glimpse of the Chase but this year, the little team from Colorado with Kurt Busch driving is in the playoffs.  All of a sudden, Kurt Busch the pariah, was wanted by every open seat and in his case, even seats that weren’t open when he was signed as a fourth car for Stewart-Haas.  The fall and rise of Kurt Busch in NASCAR is phenomenal.

The 41 year old Matt Kenseth could be considered a driver who has rebuilt his career after being pushed out at Roush Fenway due to younger blood coming up.  Of course, landing at Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) isn’t a bad alternative and Kenseth has made the most of it.  Boy, has he!  Matt has seven wins currently which is two more than his next best season, plus he’s leading the point standings two races into the Chase.  Kenseth won the Cup championship back in 2003 and even though he’d won six races over the past two seasons, it wasn’t enough to keep him at Roush.  With a fresh start at JGR, Kenseth seems set to be a force in NASCAR for at least the next few years.

More Penske

A driver who hit a real bottom was A.J. Allmendinger who a year ago, was pining away on suspension for drug violations.  He started this year with a part-time ride in open-wheel for Penske Racing in IndyCar and also Phoenix Racing in Cup.  After some successes with the fenderless cars, it became apparent that whether he was driving in IndyCar or NASCAR, Allmendinger was good and now he appears to be a hot commodity.

Joe Gibbs and JGR have also been involved in drivers who are coming and going in their careers.
Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s another Penske Racing driver as an unusual reclamation project under Roger’s tutelage.  To a lesser extent, a younger driver may be pressed into rebuilding their career what with age not mattering so much in this era of young guns.  Such may have been the case with 23 year old Joey Logano.  As an 18 year old, Logano was the greatest thing since ‘Sliced Bread’, a moniker given the youngster by fellow Connecticuter, Randy Lajoie.  However, Logano never lived up to the hype and after four less than stellar seasons, JGR gave up on Joey.  Still, Penske saw the potential and now, Logano is in his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase.

Good and bad?

And for a trifecta with Penske Racing, Sam Hornish Jr., has built his way back up and is leading the NASCAR Nationwide Series.  There are still at least a handful of races to go and his lead is tenuous but ‘Sudden Sam’ has proved he belongs.  However, this story may not be all good as Penske doesn’t have a place for Hornish next season.  Could a provisional Nationwide Series champion actually be left out of racing come 2014?  The Sam Hornish story could be good and bad all wrapped up in one.

Sure, for every good narrative, there’s another that is not so good.  And maybe Hornish’s story is the more typical where there’s good mixed in with bad and maybe even a little ugly.  However, as far as rebuilding a career, these men represent solid reasons about why a driver should never give up on their dream even if they have been part of the problem.  Rebuilding is never easy but even in NASCAR, it can be done.

Sources: NASCAR, Racing Reference

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Tags: JGR Joey Logano Kurt Busch Matt Kenseth Penske Racing Rebuilding Sam Hornish Jr