Kurt Busch and 6 NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers Who Need a New Team
As in any sport, team chemistry is a very important part of a successful season in NASCAR.
Even a Chase-caliber team won't go anywhere if the wrong driver is behind the wheel, as Penske Racing and A.J. Allmendinger showed earlier this season. But at the same time, even a very talented driver can only do so much with a shorthanded team, as Kurt Busch can tell anyone about his time with the underfunded Phoenix Racing.
As the Sprint Cup silly season starts to kick into high gear, this is the right time to think about drivers who just aren't clicking with their current teams and might need a change of scenery.
Most of these drivers have the benefit of expiring contracts at the end of this season and will probably look elsewhere for 2013 and beyond—though there are some notable exceptions.
Without further ado.
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Here's the most obvious one: a former Cup champion whose 2012 has been spent in semi-exile with an independent team because his behavioral issues drove away top teams and sponsors.
The good news for Busch is that he may land on his feet with Furniture Row Racing in a second Dodge (though nothing is certain) next year.
But even his new home may not provide Busch the caliber of team he needs to succeed once again at the highest level.
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Logano is probably losing his Joe Gibbs Racing ride to Matt Kenseth for next season—unless Gibbs can put him in a fourth car or convince him that an almost guaranteed Nationwide title would rejuvenate his career.
But with an open seat at Penske Racing for next season, Logano would be wise to look into making a switch; after all, he's always been the third driver on the three-team JGR totem pole.
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This one is more based on the frequency of starts he's able to make, as Michael Waltrip Racing only has Vickers signed up for eight events this year.
But during that time, as part of a team that runs well week in and week out, he's been one of the stronger drivers on the circuit.
He's earned another shot at a full-time ride by virtue of two top-five finishes, including one on the road course at Sonoma.
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Montoya and Chip Ganassi go way back, scoring numerous accolades in open-wheel and sports car events.
They also made it to the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2009, but since then the Colombian racing legend has struggled.
Ganassi's internal improvements helped Montoya win the pole at Pocono last weekend, but it remains to be seen whether or not that's a sign of things to come.
After all, Montoya only managed a 20th-place finish.
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Last year, Ragan was the best driver in the series at Daytona, NASCAR's most prestigious track. He had a chance at winning the Daytona 500 before a restart blunder cost him; he made up for it by winning last July's Coke Zero 400.
When he lost his ride with Roush Fenway Racing, he had to pick up a seat with the underfunded Front Row Motorsports; however, he's developed into a more-talented driver than that team can allow him to be.
He's only been in Chase contention once, but that should be proof enough that he has the ability to run up front on a consistent basis.
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Reutimann has always been a serviceable top-20 driver whose one bad year with Michael Waltrip Racing in 2011 cost him his ride.
He's been picking up the pieces with multiple teams this year, helping keep Danica Patrick's part-time ride in the top 35 of owner points, while making spot starts for BK Racing and replacing a suspended Kurt Busch in the first Pocono race.
In the right car, he can continue to run at a top-20 pace and pick off the occasional victory.
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Here's your surprise pick to close this list: last year's championship runner-up.
Edwards has always been streaky from year to year; since his nine-win season in 2008, he's finished in the top four in points twice but scored only three victories in that span.
Most Chase runners-up have a performance hangover the next season, but Edwards' seems worse than most, as he may miss the playoffs entirely this year.
He'd be a two-time champion if not for the system, but his inability to get over that roadblock with Roush Fenway Racing makes one wonder what it would take for him to finally take the next step.