Continued from page 1

Busch apologized in a statement Monday night for his behavior and accepted NASCAR’s decision. He also apologized to Phoenix Racing.

Busch said he just wanted to have some fun driving the No. 51 for Phoenix while he rebuilt his image in the hope he could return to a top-tier organization next season. Barkdoll knew the deal. But Busch vowed to them he would consider re-signing if the cars were competitive and he was happy.

James promised him when we sat down he wouldn’t lack for an engine, he wouldn’t lack for tires,” he said. “James has done his part.”

Busch has failed. He ran the bulk of schedule without a major sponsor and his abrasive personality was a turnoff for the corporate dollars.

“I can’t blame it on that, but it certainly can’t make it any better,” Barkdoll said.

Barkdoll said he’s worked with a driver who wanted to win as much as Busch, and the middling finishes have sparked some of the frustration.

But the excuses and his defenders have worn thin.

“You would think he had gotten enough wake-up calls, but certain things continue,” four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon said.

Busch split with Penske Racing at the end of last season because of his behavior. His blow up at a reporter shows not much has changed.

“I’m sure in his mind this is a minor incident and didn’t justify what happened, but eventually you have to start straightening up your act and utilizing your talent on the race track to earn the respect,” Gordon said. “This unfortunately is a step backward for him. I definitely think that the amount of talent he has, if he can control his emotions, he can be at the top of the sport like he was at one time.”

Owners and sponsors will decide with their checkbook if talent overrules temperament.

That’s no lock for Busch.

“If the sponsors are leery, then it puts you in a bad spot as an owner,” team owner and champion driver Tony Stewart said, “unless you have unlimited funding and can just put in there whoever you want.”

Finch does not have unlimited funding.

He turned to David Reutimann to drive the No. 51 Sunday at Pocono. Reutimann was in the mix for a job at Phoenix over the offseason and was scheduled for a shop tour the morning after Phoenix signed Busch. That meeting, of course, was canceled.

Story Continues →