Kurt Busch signs with new team for 2013
25 September 2012
Kurt Busch has signed up to replace Regan Smith in the #78 Furniture Row Racing car for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, it was confirmed on Monday.
"I am excited about the opportunity as I eagerly look forward to a new chapter in my racing career," said Busch, a former Cup champion in 2004 who has been spending the current season somewhat in the wilderness with the shoestring Phoenix Racing operation after splitting with Penske Racing at the end of last season.
While Furniture Row Racing might not put him back among the leading teams, it's certainly a step back to where he wants to be. And Busch's talent mixed with his new team's ambition could prove a potent combination.
"Kurt's exceptional driving talent has the capacity to take a team to another level," said said Furniture Row Racing's general manager Joe Garone. "We look forward to having Kurt join our Denver-based organization and feel his racing experience will play an important role as we plan ahead to 2013.”
“Furniture Row Racing has the commitment, talent and resources to compete at a high level in the Sprint Cup Series,” agreed Busch. "I have watched with admiration on how this team has grown over the years."
As well as competing in the Cup series with Phoenix Racing, Kurt has also been driving the #54 car in the Nationwide Series for his brother Kyle's new team. While various teething problems with the fledgling operation had thwarted him on multiple occasions, his performance has succeeded in reminding everyone of his driving talents rather than his fiery temper and succeeded in putting him back on the radar for many team managers.
The outgoing Regan Smith has been with the Furniture Row team since the start of the 2009 season, but had already indicated this past weekend at New Hampshire that he wasn't going to be returning with the team again next season.
"I've been told it appears I won't be back here next year," Smith told reporters before the Sylvania 300.
Garone said that the decision to part with Smith had been a difficult but necessary one if the team was going to move forward from the groove that they had settled into in 2012.
“Though we have made strides as a resourceful single-car Sprint Cup team, we are not where we want to be, which led us to the difficult decision of making a driver change as we move forward,” he said. "As our team driver the past four years, Regan has represented Furniture Row Racing with both class and competitiveness," he continued.
"He is a friend, and will always be a friend of Furniture Row Racing," Garone added. "We wish him all the best."
Smith had been unable to pick up the momentum of his 2011 breakthrough season which saw his maiden win with the team in the Southern 500 at Darlington, and he admitted that they had suffered a poor start to this year's campaign that had set them back.
"We made the changes I felt like we needed to make as a team to get better and move forward, about three-quarters of the way through the year," said Smith. "And we have improved. It's been steadily improving and getting better. I think the disappointing thing for me is to sit back and know I suffered through the tough times."
Last weekend at Loudon, Smith finished in 16th place while Kurt Busch finished in 25th in the Phoenix Racing entry.
"Now it appears I'm getting the car ready for someone else," he sighed. "That's a little disappointing for me."
Smith added that he didn't know what this meant for his own prospects of finding a ride in NASCAR next season, but that perhaps it was about time that he moved on to somewhere new.
"You've got to look at what's down the road also, and I feel like I'm at a point in my career right now where I'm getting better every time I get in the race car," the 29-year-old from New York state said. "I don't think I've peaked or anything like that. I'm sure there's still some stuff out there. I've been talking to people for some time now, and we'll see over the next weeks, maybe months how it shakes out from here.
"This is all kind of new. You try to figure it out as you go along. But we'll roll with the punches as I've always done, and see how it shakes out."