- Associated Press - Monday, June 11, 2012

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The free agent picture in NASCAR got a whole lot murkier over the last week, thanks to Kurt Busch and Joey Logano.

Fittingly, both are likely eyeing the exact same seat.

It’s fairly common knowledge that Joe Gibbs Racing is interested in Busch, and unless the funding for a fourth car magically appears, the only seat the team has available currently belongs to Logano. While Logano was driving the No. 20 Toyota to victory on Sunday at Pocono, Busch was apparently fishing.

A picture posted on Twitter showed the 2004 NASCAR champion with a line in the water, his activity of choice as he served a one-race suspension for verbally abusing a member of the media.

Suddenly, it may not be so easy for JGR to give Logano the boot.

His young career is at a crossroads in the fourth and final year of his Sprint Cup contract. Once heralded as the next big NASCAR superstar, Logano has struggled to deliver at the top level. While he has 13 wins in the Nationwide Series _ four so far this season _ Sunday’s victory was just the second Cup win for Logano in 125 career starts.

With teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin established as annual title contenders, it’s no secret that Logano is lagging far behind the other two in terms of production.

Enter Kurt Busch, who is riding out this year trying to elbow his way back in with an elite team. His kid brother is already entrenched at JGR, and the team has plenty of experience in dealing with volatile drivers dating to its 10-year run with Tony Stewart.

“We love Kurt, mainly because of Kyle and Kyle has got a strong feeling for him,” Gibbs told reporters last month.

Neither Gibbs or team president J.D. Gibbs was at Logano’s post-race news conference on Sunday, when Logano admitted he doesn’t know what’s next for his future.

“I haven’t been informed on where I stand for next year yet, so it’s all up in the air,” he said. “Obviously winning a race means a lot and it helps that out a ton. For sure right now my future is not set with anybody. To get this win means a lot. It’s at a perfect time.”

He’s certainly got that right.

The summer stretch is typically when all the jockeying for open seats heats up, and Busch did himself no favors at Dover two weeks ago with his abusive language toward a Sporting News reporter. It was yet another gaffe that NASCAR would not tolerate, and since Busch was already on probation for an incident at Darlington, he was suspended for a weekend.

Busch is not eligible to return to competition until Wednesday, and he’s first got to make it through a meeting with current team owner James Finch. That’s expected to happen on Tuesday, and Finch has given no indication he’s going to deliver a soft message.

“Here’s the deal: Quit wrecking the cars, get a good finish, be nice to people. That’s not real hard to do,” Finch said last week.

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