Kurt Busch Discusses Possible Return To NHRAby The Staff September 16, 2017 0 comments
By Brandon Mudd, special to TheFourthTurn.com
Racers like Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. get a lot of ink racing outside of NASCAR at dirt tracks all over the country, but 2004 Cup Series champion Kurt Busch’s adventures outside of his comfort zone tends to get overlooked. The reigning Daytona 500 winner raced the 2014 Indy 500, finishing sixth, as well as dipping his toe into the waters of NHRA in 2011. Then driving for Penske Racing, the Las Vegas native raced Pro Stock at the Gatornationals, qualifying ninth in the field of 16.
Although Busch lost in the first round to future two-time class titleholder Erica Enders-Stevens, he remembers his foray into drag racing fondly.
“I just like the doorslammer cars,” Busch said. “I grew up watching that. There’s a guy in Vegas, George Marnell, that had a Pro Stock car and that’s why I had the interest to go and do it.”
Marnell, a two-time NHRA Nationals event winner, retired in 2003, but his influence reached a young Kurt Busch, who had followed Marnell’s career. While Busch went the way of oval tracks and NASCAR, the call of the 1320 was strong, eventually leading to a partnership with 2012 Pro Stock champ Allen Johnson. The two still keep in touch, Johnson texting Busch the day he announced his retirement prior to the US Nationals in Indianapolis a couple weeks ago.
One of the storylines within the NHRA in recent years is the appearance of a steady decline of the Pro Stock class. While Busch admits he doesn’t follow the day-to-day news regarding Pro Stock, he’s aware of the issues dogging the class.
“I’m watching Pro Stock, it’s struggling,” Busch said. “When I was there, you could tell the Pro Stock guys felt neglected, like only the nitro cars get on TV. The way sports works, especially motorsports, you’ve got to have TV time. There’s only so much TV time to go around when you have the nitro division versus Pro Stock.”
Busch, whose future with his current team Stewart-Haas Racing is unclear, has said he wouldn’t mind returning to the sport Wally Parks built nearly seven decades ago to get racers off the streets. The only issue is time, something NASCAR racers have a very limited supply of during the season.
“For me, it’s just time,” Busch said. “The time constraint of the NASCAR schedule is so demanding that it’s tough to make it back over there or the Indy 500…The year I was able to do it was because Gainesville matched up with our off week.”
Currently 12th in points, Busch rolls off the grid 17th for Sunday’s NASCAR post-season kickoff at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas/TheFourthTurn.com