ThatsRacin

Right choices could land Kurt Busch another NASCAR championship

Kurt Busch poses for a photo with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert after winning the pole during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20 in Fontana, Cal.
Kurt Busch poses for a photo with Miss Coors Light Rachel Rupert after winning the pole during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway on March 20 in Fontana, Cal. Getty Images

My two cents

Kevin Harvick has left little doubt at the start of this NASCAR season that he once again will be in the championship hunt.

What is surprising is his stiffest competition might come from one of his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates.

Kurt Busch got a delayed start to the 2015 Sprint Cup Series season when he was suspended by NASCAR for the season’s first three races after a Kent County (Del.) Family Court commissioner issued an opinion in which he found Busch had committed an act of domestic violence against his former girlfriend.

Once the Delaware Attorney General’s Office elected not to file criminal charges and Busch fulfilled NASCAR’s Road to Recovery requirements, he returned to his No. 41 team and has picked up right where he left off at the end of last season.

In the final three races of the 2014 season working with crew chief Tony Gibson, Busch finished eighth, seventh and 11th. In his first three races back working with Gibson this season, Busch has finished fifth, third and 14th.

In fact, in the three races Busch, 36, has been back, he has scored the fourth-most points of any driver (113). Only Brad Keselowski (129), Harvick (129) and Joey Logano (116) have scored more, and all three are already safely locked in this season’s championship Chase with victories.

Whatever faults Busch might have as a person, there remains no question he is still one of the sport’s most talented drivers. He won the series title in 2004.

It seems unlikely, but now given a second, third or even fourth chance, Busch still has the opportunity to cement his legacy as a competitor but also to change his perception by fans and fellow drivers.

There are those who think it’s too late. But here he is 15 years from his Cup series debut and running nose-to-nose with the reigning Cup series champion.

Can he create the ultimate underdog story and win the title? Can he stay out of trouble along the way?

Once again, the choices are up to Busch, and NASCAR fans are waiting for him to make the right ones.

Notes

ZZ Top in Charlotte: ZZ Top, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 by Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, will perform a pre-race concert on May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway prior to the Coca-Cola 600.

The group is scheduled to perform a 45-minute set, which is free to all ticket holders for the race.

“Our music has long been synonymous with great NASCAR action and we’re looking forward to continuing that tradition with the May 24th appearance at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Fast cars, rockin' music and the greatest fans in the world is a winning combination as far as we’re concerned,” a statement from the band said.

More races for Poole: Brennan Poole will compete in two additional Xfinity Series races this season, his HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi team announced earlier this week. Poole, already scheduled to run 15 series races, will add the May 17 and Aug. 1 races at Iowa Speedway.

In two starts so far this season, Poole finished ninth at Las Vegas and 26th at Phoenix.

Goldberg at Bristol: Former pro wrestler and NFL player Bill Goldberg will serve as the pre-race host for next weekend’s Cup series race at Bristol, Tenn., and will emcee the track’s unique driver introductions.

“NASCAR is near and dear to my heart,” said Goldberg. “Bristol is like no other track on the planet and the driver introductions are a special treat for the fans. I plan to pump up the party and have some fun with the drivers.”

Hall fan vote underway: Fan voting for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 opens is underway at NASCAR.com/halloffame and runs through May 19 at 11:59 p.m. ET. The five nominees receiving the highest percentage of votes will comprise the Fan Vote ballot. The 2016 class will be announced on May 20.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter

Next race

Duck Commander 500

What: 334 laps or 501 miles

Where: Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas.

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

TV: Fox

Radio: Performance Racing Network

Last year’s winner: Joey Logano

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