Let’s be clear here. As much as Kurt Busch did just about everything he could to get fired short of giving Roger Penske a wedgie, in another era he never would have been given his walking papers like he was Monday.
Another era would be just a few years ago, when 49 fully-funded cars showed up at the track looking for 43 spots. This is a supply-and-demand business. There used to be more good rides than good drivers. Now, there are more good drivers than good rides.
When there’s a surplus of talent out there that actually knows how to represent a company, why in the world would you feel the need to deal with head cases that could cost you the very same sponsorship you’re using to pay their salary?
David Ragan, who likely would’ve swept Daytona this past season if not for one restart screwup at the 500, is making a full-court press for the gig. He by far has the most upside.
Brian Vickers has an appearance in the Chase under his belt and is fully over his medical issues. Plus, if Shell-Pennzoil wanted to save a little money, Vickers maybe could bring some additional sponsorship from Red Bull, which wants to stay in the sport as a sponsor even though it’s getting out of ownership.
David Reutimann may seem like a long shot since he’s older and not a potential long-term option. But not so fast. Penske wants to put Sam Hornish Jr. back in the Sprint Cup in 2013 after a full season in the Nationwide Series. If Penske doesn’t feel he can get full-time sponsorship for three Sprint Cup cars in 2013, Reutimann would be the perfect stopgap to drive the No. 22 Dodge in 2012 before Hornish takes over. Reutimann is one of the nicest guys in the garage. The playful banter at the track between Root and his dad Buzzie would be the perfect change of pace for a company saddled by YouTube videos of Busch blistering Dr. Jerry Punch’s ears.
The sports landscape changes fast. Tim Tebow is the new Hulk Hogan. Training, saying your prayers and eating your vitamins are in. Terrell Owens “Get your popcorn ready” BS is out.
At least T.O. had a modicum of entertainment value. Busch just made you want to change the channel.
For a company putting $20 million into a team, that is unacceptable — especially when there are so many other options.