Notebook: Head start will help Busch acclimate to Furniture Row ride

The SportsXchange

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

Distributed by The Sports Xchange

DOVER, Del. -- Who knew?

When Kurt Busch opted to change race teams, he also severed his psychic bond with Charlie Sheen.

Busch and Furniture Row Racing general manager Joe Garone took questions Friday in the Dover International Speedway media center, confirming that Busch will take the seat of the No. 78 Chevrolet for the final six races of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

Earlier this week, Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row announced the signing of Busch to a one-year contract for 2013. Busch has been driving the No. 51 Chevrolet of James Finch this season after parting with Penske Racing at the end of the 2011 campaign.

At the Friday press conference, Busch took umbrage at the perception that he's making a lateral move.

"That's a slap in the face to (Furniture Row owner) Barney Visser, because he has put together a program that is tiers above, levels of competition above where James Finch is -- and James will admit to that," Busch said.

"Barney Visser, this program, they are committed. Their alliance with Richard Childress (Racing), it's there and it's solid. That's why, when you say a lateral move, I don't like it so much. It's a slap in the face to Barney Visser, but everybody in this garage area knows. ... if you have a hard card (a NASCAR annual credential), you know the differences in the teams."

Busch will race for the first time with Furniture Row on Oct. 13 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a move that will give him time to get to know his new team and crew chief Todd Berrier.

"I can't wait to get in the car and deliver," Busch said. "It's great to get a jump on 2013. That way we don't go to Daytona (in February) with a deer-in-the-headlights feel. We're going to get all the bugs worked out of the way, the newness, the operating procedures, the trips back and forth to Denver -- all this will be scienced out and smoothed out.

"Heck, it's just an opportunity to get in a quality car this year, and I can't wait."

Busch, who vowed to enjoy his time with Finch when he took the job in the No. 51 car, had some fun with the media at the close of his news conference.

"I had the wrong approach, I think, in the beginning of the season," said Busch, who has had an uneasy relationship with the media. "I was following my Zen master Charlie Sheen, and that wasn't going very well.

"So I had to look back, look around and then I followed another top-10 most hated athlete guy (according to an ESPN list), LeBron James. He brought his talents down to Miami and won a championship down there. So I'm going to take my talents to Denver and bring a championship out there."

Busch, an ardent baseball fan, has found a new role model on the diamond.

"I decided that I didn't need Charlie Sheen, so I'm going to look at a new Zen master," Busch said. "I found him. It's Bryce Harper, 19-year-old phenom out of Vegas (Busch's home town). He's the (Washington) Nationals guy that's helped their team get into the playoffs.

"He's so wise. He told the media, 'No more clown questions. I'm not going to answer any clown questions.' So I'm really looking up to a 19-year-old Bryce Harper to help me through all this."

SPEED SPORTS MOURN ECONOMAKI

Chris Economaki, long-time editor of National Speed Sport News and a pioneering racing broadcaster, died Friday morning at age 91. For years, Economaki was one of the most familiar names -- and voices -- in all forms of motorsports.

"Speed Sport News is something that I read religiously," Jeff Gordon said Friday at Dover. "Chris did a lot for that newspaper and for motorsports, and he was passionate about all of it. The last time I saw him was earlier this year, and still, that's all he thought about was racing.

"He cared so much about what was happening in this sport and wanted to make a difference and wanted to get those stories out there. It's just not that often that you come across somebody that puts their heart and soul and entire life mission into that."

FOX and SPEED play-by-play announcer Mike Joy put Economaki's contribution in perspective.

"Chris Economaki became the prototype for all radio and television journalists in his sport," Joy said. "His depth of knowledge and skilled questioning made network execs understand that auto racing needed specialists to properly cover the sport.

"Chris opened the door for a whole generation of voices you hear today, and we are all indebted to him."

HAMLIN: WE CAN WIN AT DOVER

Despite the disparity between Denny Hamlin's record at Dover and that of Jimmie Johnson, Hamlin isn't planning to fight a holding action in Sunday's AAA 400.

Hamlin recently has turned to sports psychologist Bob Rotella for guidance, and the result is a more aggressive attitude toward the track Hamlin freely admits is his worst in the Chase.

Hamlin has a 20.5 career average finish at the Monster Mile, a far cry from Johnson's 8.9. But Hamlin took encouragement from the first Cup practice session, during which he posted the third fastest single-lap speed among 48 drivers.

"Obviously, the outlook that I'm supposed to have was not to look past this weekend and want to get over this weekend," Hamlin said Friday between practice sessions. "It's to optimize this weekend and treat it as one we can win at. Until my speeds slow up, and my car slows down, I'm going to treat it like I can win this weekend, just like any other track.

"I'm not going to look forward. I'm just going to stay concentrated on this weekend, trying to do the best I can, knowing in the back of my head that every track from here on out, we've won at or been very, very good at year after year. Instead of doing damage control, I'm going to treat this weekend as being on offense instead of defense."
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