Feb 21, 2014; Daytona Beach, FL, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Danica Patrick (10) and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kurt Busch (41) talk during practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Kurt Busch: No Longer an Outlaw?

At 35, Kurt Busch has had his fair of ups and downs in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

From incidents with NASCAR, fellow drivers, teams and even the police, Busch has had a rocky career that all started in 2001. Driving for the No.97 for Roush Fenway Racing, Busch got his start in NASCAR’s top series. He won the Nextel Cup Championship in 2004 with RFR and everything seemed to be going in the right direction. But that didn’t last.

In 2005, Busch left RFR at the end of the season to take over the No.2 Miller Lite Dodge after missing the last two races of the season after an incident with the police.

In 2011, Busch was replaced in the N0.2 by Brad Keselowski and moved over to the No.22 Shell/Pennzoil, also with Penske Racing. Known for his verbal tirades on and off track, Busch went off on Dr. Jerry Punch at Homestead-Miami and a few months later, he and Penske Racing parted ways.

He joined the single car team of Phoenix Racing in 2012 but unfortunately, Busch let his emotions get the best of him. At Darlington International Raceway, Busch got turned by Ryan Newman. He proceeded to stop in Newman’s pit box, narrowly avoiding one of his crew members. He was fined $50,000 and put on probation by NASCAR.

His altercations that season didn’t end there. An indecent with Justin Allgaier in the Nationwide Series left Busch saying some unfortunate words to reporter Bob Pockrass, leaving NASCAR to suspend him for the next race at Pocono.

Busch left Phoenix Racing towards the end of the 2012 season for another single car team in Furniture Row Racing. Replacing Regan Smith, Busch finished out the season with the team and continued to drive the No.78 Chevrolet for the 2013 season.

Starting the 2013 season, there was an obvious change in Busch. His calmer demeanor was noticed around the garage and as the season went on, people’s opinions about Busch started to change. Although he didn’t win a race in 2013, Busch brought Furniture Row Racing into the Chase, the first single car team to make NASCAR’s playoffs.

Busch had hit rock bottom in 2011 after being suspended by NASCAR and after numerous verbal and on-track incidents with fellow drivers. His reputation in the garage was that of an outlaw, and Busch sported the name above his door. He started seeing a sports psychologist that year.

With a new demeanor in 2013 and a new start in 2014, “Outlaw” doesn’t seem to fit Busch anymore. Now driving the No.41 Haas Automation Chevrolet at SHR and with a brand new team at a powerhouse organization, Busch has his eyes set on a long-term future with the team.

With a new outlook on life and a promising future in the Sprint Cup Series, Busch is no longer the outlaw in the garage. His verbal tirades have diminished and although he gets fired up on the radio, his on-track retaliation has disappeared. 2014 is a fresh start for the oldest Busch brother and with fast cars and three talented teammates, he is on the right track to being the Championship contender he knows how to be.

Tags: Furniture Row Racing Kurt Busch Penske Racing Phoenix Racing Roush-Fenway Racing Stewart-Haas Racing

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