NASCAR champion Kurt Busch thriving at Chip Ganassi Racing: ‘We’ve got a wheelman now’
When Kurt Busch signed with Chip Ganassi Racing for 2019, it appeared as a possible one-year run that would complete a solid 19-year career with one last shot at wins and a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.
But even before his victory Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, the 40-year-old appeared rejuvenated after spending the previous five seasons at Stewart-Haas Racing where he ran well but didn’t have the impact nor influence at a four-car organization that he could have at the two-car Ganassi stable.
Armed with a race-winning trophy, Busch has locked himself into a playoff run that he hopes lasts longer than that of 2018, when he advanced out of the first two rounds before being eliminated when the playoff field was cut from eight to the four competing for the title in the final race.
The hopes of success at Ganassi now appear they will last more than just one season, although no deal has been signed for the 2004 Cup Series champion to drive the No. 1 Cup car in 2020.
Kurt Busch celebrates after winning the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart at Kentucky Speedway. (Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel, USA TODAY Sports)
Monster Energy, which sponsors Busch for several races, still has to decide whether to return as it evaluates its NASCAR spend, according to the company’s sports marketing director, Mitch Covington. Monster’s sponsorship of NASCAR’s top series ends after this year as the organization transitions to a new model with no series naming rights but tiers of sponsors for certain assets across the sanctioning body, tracks and possibly broadcast partners.
There is no doubt that Monster loves its association with Busch, having moved with him from SHR to Ganassi and liking his fierce persona that at times drives him to victories and at other times lands him in trouble.
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“For me it's a matter of just having the dominoes line up and everybody fall together and to make it happen,” Busch said after the win Saturday.
“I guess the easiest way to move things forward is request for proposals are going out (this week) with sponsors, with manufacturers, with team owner. … This 1 team is a powerful team, and it would be stupid not to keep this group together. And that's part of my leverage, but at the end of it, we just want to make it work for all parties.”
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