For most, the comeback trail is a long ascent from the bottom. Such is not the way of the NASCAR fans call “The Outlaw.” Kurt Busch has been hauling the mail since his 2015 in Phoenix, the fourth reason of the season. Having run only two-thirds of the schedule to date, Busch already has a win and has made a meteoric rise to 18th in points, good enough for at least a wild card berth.
NASCAR offered the 2004 champion an exemption due to the late start brought on by legal allegations against. He’s not going to need it; Kurt Busch is earning his spot at the table, debuting with a fifth place run at Phoenix, a third place finish at Fontana, and now a win at Richmond Sunday.
Forget all the off track nonsense that has clung to him like barnacles, Busch has demonstrated championship caliber talent. At Sunday’s post-race press conference, crew chief Tony Gibson paid his driver about as high a compliment as a driver can get. The veteran pit boss likened the Las Vegas native to Alan Kulwicki as being a driver engaged in endeavoring to understand how track conditions will affect the car, and what adjustments need to be made at the right juncture of the race to put a car in a position to win. Gibson described a cerebral driver, an image not ordinarily associated with hard charging image. He may be an “outlaw,” but Busch is no lone wolf.
Conversely, the winner of 26 career races at the Sprint Cup level is quick to give praise to Gibson. The crew chief’s expertise, he says, allows Busch to do what he does best, and that is to focus on getting the 41 to victory lane. They didn’t squeak out a win, Busch, Gibson and Co. wrestled down this track and made it cry “uncle.”
27 races left in the season, and Busch already has as half as many top fives (3) as he had in all of 2014 (6). It may be unrealistic to think he can maintain an average finish of 8.7- which he has so far- an entire season, but what it does is enter Kurt Busch into a championship conversation that includes the likes of teammate Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, and Joey Logano, just to name a few.
Like the outlaw that he is, Kurt Busch is one you can see that will be a nemesis to his opponents all season long. To be a successful outlaw, you’ve got to have a fast ride. Thanks to the support he has at SHR, and what Gene Haas has supported him with, this outlaw will be giving the other guys the slip all season long.
If Jimmie Johnson is vanilla, Kurt Busch is rocky road. Those kind of match-ups give a sport spice.