CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The free agent picture in NASCAR got a whole lot murkier over the past 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 might 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. Though he has 13 wins in the Nationwide Series – four so far this season – Sunday’s victory was just his second Cup win 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 back 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 said last month.
Neither Gibbs nor team president J.D. Gibbs was at Logano’s post-race news conference Sunday, when he 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,” Logano 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 reporter. Busch’s sheer talent is still attractive to most team owners. The issue then becomes how much those owners can tolerate.