When word came down that the Chip Ganassi Racing organization had sold off its NASCAR Cup program to Trackhouse racing owner Justin Marks and that former champion and 2020 race winner Kurt Busch would be shown the exit door, it came as something of a surprise to stock car racing fans across America.
For 22-year veteran Busch however, the news was just another challenge to confront.
“You drive harder and push harder when news like that comes out,” Busch told the NASCAR media at the time. “It was a surprise to me. All of us at Ganassi Racing looked at each other and said, ‘We’ve got a playoff berth right now in front of us. Let’s go get it.’”
And Busch is ready to go get it.
Currently 14th in Cup Series points and locked into the 2021 NASCAR playoffs, Busch is convinced that he and the No. 1 Monster Energy Camaro can make a serious run at another NASCAR Cup title. And he wants to spool up that run beginning this Sunday afternoon in the 82-lap, 200-mile Verizon 200 at the Brickyard.
Q: Kurt, you’ve performed quite well on the Cup road courses this season. Are you looking forward to lining up for Sunday’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard?
I’m looking forward to the Indy road course. I mean it’s Indianapolis. It’s still just as prestigious as any other Indy race, and the cool part about heading to Indy is, you tell different friends or you bump into someone at the auto parts store or wherever, whenever you say the world ‘Indianapolis’, or you say the word ‘Daytona’, people’s eyes light up. So that’s how I’m looking at all of this. This is awesome that it’s a road course. We’ve been doing really good at Ganassi on the road courses, so I’ve had this date circled on my calendar for a while.
Q: Between the Bristol dirt race, the addition of more road course races and a few serious shuffles of the ’21 schedule, I wanted to ask you what you thought about the radically revised Cup schedule?
KB: Yeah, I’ve really enjoyed the change. I’ve encouraged others to embrace it. I think we got stagnant in the world of NASCAR with all of the tracks being part of whatever management group or shareholders group or whatever ISC had going on, or whatever SMI had going on. We were stuck with the same dates and the same tracks for a while, so that’s why we are seeing all this freshness as they get some of that paperwork sorted out.
Q: The playoffs are looming large. Do you feel good about where you and the team are at?
KB: I do. I feel like with the team being sold at Ganassi, all of our guys are looking at one another and going, “This is that moment in time, and this is that moment in life were we all just have to dig deep and work together as one big group and focus on the now rather than the future.” I feel like we’ve got to come out of the gate strong and try to win Darlington. We’ve got to go big and gain a bunch of points at one of my favorite tracks, as well as where Ganassi has run a little better on those style of tracks. Bristol is one of my best tracks and Richmond is a good place, so we just have to get things going and get things underway and to not make mistakes. If we don’t mistakes, then I know we’ll advance through the rounds. It’s all about creating a game plan and then having others bounce ideas off of me and we all work on this together. It’s not just one person.
Q: There has been a terrific amount of talk swirling around where you’ll race come 2022…
KB: Oh, things look very promising. I know where things sit. It’s just so close to being done and getting that announcement out there. We still have to wait just a little bit. There are a few puzzle pieces that will have to click in the right way, but I’m smiling about it and so is everybody else around me.
Q: Can you tell us who you believe you’ll be racing for come Daytona 2022?
KB: Can’t say anything yet. Not just yet.
Q: You’ve achieved so much in NASCAR, and now the time of the Next Gen car is upon us. You want to have a hand in developing that car, don’t you?
KB: Yeah, I mean for me, I’m a racer. That’s what I’ve done my whole life, and when there’s a new car out on the horizon, I want to try and drive it. Whether it was the current team, or a new team, I’m also still trying to find a role where I’m more of a mentor and a coach within a system that will be part of the long-term future of NASCAR. I still also want to dabble in sports cars and some other things around the world. My wife loves racing and it is great to have her support in all of this, as well. It’s just a matter of finding the right opportunity. You know, with still running for the championship or running for points in NASCAR, I’ve got to find the right open weekends, but there are other races and other race cars I’d like to try. But, man, Monster Energy has been incredible. With the manufacturers I’ve raced for during my career, I have solid connections everywhere, so who knows what’s around the next corner.
I still love it. I just had a birthday. I just turned 43. I hit the gym. I’m pushing harder. I’m sweating more. Recovery days are a little longer, but I’m smiling each and every year that I go out and strap back into the car. I love the travel, the people, the camaraderie and being a representative of all of my partners and brands that are with me.