COMMENTARY | Remember the Kurt Busch nobody could stand?
The Kurt Busch who cussed-out TV reporters and their cameramen and subsequently got dumped by his team and sponsor.
The Kurt Busch who went ballistic on his team over the radio so often, you wondered why anyone would ever want to work with him again.
Well, it appears that Kurt Busch is gone.
Instead, we have a Kurt Busch who has done what many thought was impossible -- stay out of trouble and take a single-car team based out of Colorado and put it in a position where a potential Chase berth is quite realistic.
He hasn't won any races, but he has come very close and led a ton of laps, a sign that a win is coming. And while the team surely made other improvements besides the driver since the days Regan Smith drove the 78 car, you have to give Busch a lot of credit for what he's done.
And, apparently, everyone else in the garage is noticing, and his reputation is fully restored from the days where he made himself a pariah.
Just look at how this past week progressed in terms of the rumors.
First, Busch was considered one of the frontrunners for the Juan Pablo Montoya ride, Chip Ganassi's 42 car, after it was announced JPM would be leaving the ride, and he was asked about whether that might be his destination in 2014.
But after Sunday's race, things got more interesting, as multiple sources reported that Stewart-Haas Racing had formally offered Busch a ride in a fourth team for 2014.
That's an amazing turnaround because just a month ago, it was announced that Ryan Newman would be leaving SHR because the team was "not ready to expand to a fourth team." Not so long later, it's possible Busch will the fourth car at SHR, a move that would seriously tick me off if I were Newman.
(Though, to be fair, Busch has done a lot better on the track that Newman this year, even though Newman arguably has equal or better equipment. And Busch is a champion while Newman is not, so he would be an upgrade.)
The official statement reporters got from SHR was a coded way of saying the offer to Busch may be real: "Stewart-Haas Racing constantly strives to improve itself, and expansion is something that is often discussed. If the right opportunity presents itself, it's something the team will certainly consider."
This is by no means a sure thing, and no doubt contingent on sponsorship as always, so perhaps Busch won't head to Stewart's team. It's possible he'll end up elsewhere, as there are multiple offers he is mulling.
Also, it's very possible that he might just stay with Furniture Row, especially since the team might make the Chase and shake things up this year. Perhaps its future is very bright, and he doesn't need to leave.
But the fact is everyone seems to want Kurt Busch on their team in 2014, and if I would have told you that two years ago, you would have laughed in my face.
They say it's nice to have options in life -- and options are overflowing for Busch right now; Stay at Furniture Row? Go to Ganassi? Go to Stewart-Haas? Go to another team?
The world is his oyster.
And instead of screaming with frustration and anger as he was a couple years ago, Kurt Busch is probably screaming with joy (at least on the inside) at all the options he has and the potential his career now holds.
Matt Myftiu lives in Michigan, has been a walking encyclopedia of NASCAR since immersing himself in the sport over 15 years ago, and has worked as a journalist for two decades. His blog on the sport, NASCAR: Beyond the Track, has been published by The Oakland Press for the past 5 years. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu.
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