Busch Brothers Team Up for Nationwide
Who said deep-pocketed sponsors and ambitious owners were shying away from driver Kurt Busch?
Well, OK, lots of people have said it. Hall of Famer Richard Petty, for one.
But on Thursday in a state-of-the-art race shop on the outskirts of a town that already was on the outskirts of the nearest big city of Charlotte, Controversial Kurt seemed filled with genuine delight as he and his younger brother, Kyle, announced a union that at the very least will be interesting and more likely will prove to be highly entertaining.
As owner of Kyle Busch Motorsports, Kyle was filled with delight, too. Any owner these days who can land a multi-year agreement with a sponsor, as he did with Monster Energy Company to be primary sponsor for the No. 54 Toyota he will field this season and beyond in the Nationwide Series, understandably is filled with joy.
Kyle Busch said Monster Energy will serve as primary sponsor for all 33 Nationwide races this season, but that wasn't Thursday's zinger. Kyle then added that while he plans to drive the car in the season-opening race at Daytona and in the next four races, Kurt will drive the car in every race Kyle doesn't -- likely for a total of about 20 events to Kyle's 13.
Monster Energy has been known to sponsor a multitude of championship athletes in other forms of mostly extreme sports and never flinched when Kyle mentioned the idea of putting brother Kurt in the car for the majority of the races. Some sponsors have told other owners that the elder Busch was tainted goods after last season, when he left Penske Racing by mutual agreement after a series of incidents where Kurt's temper got the best of him,
"When this opportunity came along, we got together and collaborated on what we could do and took it to Monster," Kyle said. "And they were like, 'Hell, yeah, sign him on.' "
A full plate
Kurt Busch admitted his 2012 plate will be full. He's also running a full Sprint Cup schedule for Phoenix Racing and owner James Finch, who also has plans to put Kurt in several Nationwide races, including Daytona. On Thursday, Kurt pledged to work in tandem with Kyle in that race.
While Kurt made it clear that his intentions are to run for the Cup title this year (drivers can pick only one series in which they compete for a championship), he also didn't rule out trying to fun a full Nationwide schedule while he's at it. The goal for him and Kyle with the No. 54 car will be to capture the owner's championship, since neither will be eligible for the driver's championship in Nationwide.
But how will big brother take to having lil' brother for at least a part-time boss? Both Busch brothers insisted it will be not only fine, but lots of fun. They also downplayed what they portrayed as the misconception that they haven't gotten along all that well on or off the track in the past, citing only one incident during the 2010 All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway when they wrecked each other, as the exception rather than the rule.
"Conversations have been good. We've certainly have had a lot of talks about how this whole deal is going to work out and what we both are looking to get out of this," Kyle Busch said. "You know, Kurt's never really done a full Nationwide deal. He's always kind of had the itch, but never really cared about it. But now this is something for him to get out there and hopefully win some races in our car and help us put up some win banners here in our shop."
As for his part, Kurt Busch beamed with pride as he waved a hand and gestured around at the gleaming 77,000-square-foot facility Kyle has spawned. He said he expects Lil' Bro to be an outstanding owner for which to drive.
"I think he's got the most ambition and I think he's got the most energy. ... The way he's gone about putting together a high-profile program right from the git-go, this just has that solid foundation where you know it's going to be a competitive car right away," Kurt said. "There are tons of kids, tons of drivers, that wanted to be in this car. I'm glad Monster chose me. I wanted to do it alongside my brother. It's neat to be able to put it together."
Kyle the owner
This is Kyle Busch's first foray into the Nationwide Series as an owner, although it would not be incorrect to say he has owned the series in recent years. While his Kyle Busch Motorsports operation has until now stuck to fielding teams only in the Camping World Truck Series, where they were very successful with 16 wins and 32 top-five finishes in 64 starts over the past two seasons, Kyle has wheeled for others on the Nationwide side with remarkable results.
In 222 starts over nine seasons as a Nationwide driver, Kyle already has become the winningest driver in series history with 51 victories. It seemed only natural that he eventually would field a car -- or perhaps someday cars -- in the series.
The next question is will he stop here? Or is fielding a Cup team someday in his future as an owner?
"One day, maybe," Kyle replied to those queries. "It takes a hell of a lot more money to go Cup racing competitively than it does to go Nationwide racing. But this is a step in the right direction for sure.
"Hopefully this place is going to be around a long time. It's a beautiful facility. You know, this is something that I feel is near and dear to my heart. I didn't inherit this. It's something that I've been building. I've tried to build all of this and hire the right people and put them in the right places so we can be successful."
That includes putting faith in an older brother who once was far more well known and more successful in NASCAR than he could dream of being.
"Certainly when I first started out with Hendrick Motorsports [in 2004], I was Kurt's younger brother. I was never really just Kyle. I think we've developed that now -- where we're still siblings, obviously, but two separate personalities," Kyle said. "So now to be able to come together and collaborate on this with Monster seems to be a good fit. Monster Energy is growing at a rapid rate; Kyle Busch Motorsports seems to be growing at a pretty good rate, too. Kurt and I both have sort of that edgy personality where we just both want to win -- and that's what Monster is all about, too. I think it's a perfect fit."
It's a part-time, one-year fit for now. But Kurt left open all kinds of possibilities for the pair as they go on down their next road at least partially together.
"The limits [for KBM] are endless. You can say it's surprising, but I just know how our dad raised us with racing. It's all we've ever known; it's all we've ever done," Kurt said. "It's obvious because we've always been so focused on what's happening through our windshield that we've missed out on some everyday life -- because we're so focused on winning.
"So that's what this building is built off of, and that's why Kyle surrounded himself with the kind of people that he has. It's all about winning. So it's just neat to be able to team up as family. The possibilities are endless."