WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Nextel Cup champion Kurt Busch will be
back to fulfill the final year of his contract with Roush Racing
because his car owner will not let him go early.
Jack Roush said Busch sought a release for 2006 after telling him earlier this week that he had a deal for 2007 with Roger
"He said, 'I don't want to negotiate with you for 2007,'"
Roush recalled Friday at Watkins Glen International. "I said, OK,
and he said, 'I want to be released for 2006.' I said not OK."
Busch said he understood that and is focused on winning another
title or two before moving to Penske. He has called the Penske ride
an "opportunity of a lifetime," and a challenge to prove he can
win with a different team.
He's hoping something still can be worked out that will permit
him to move into the No. 2 Dodge next season, but didn't sound
"It's Jack's decision," he said. "We'll see what happens."
Roush already is faced with trying to fill one of his five cars
for next season. He has signed Jamie McMurray to replace Mark
Martin in 2007, but is leaning on Martin to delay by a year his
retirement from full-time Cup racing. Martin wants to move to the
NASCAR Craftsman Truck series next season.
McMurray wants to leave Chip Ganassi Racing after 2005. Like
Busch, he can't get out of the final year of his contract.
"That's not even on the radar screen," Ganassi said before the
cars began practice for Sunday's Sirius Satellite Radio at the
Glen. "His status has always been the same."
So, Busch can't go to Penske as a replacement for the retiring
Rusty Wallace, and McMurray is staying put.
Will somebody give in and break the logjam? Ganassi and Roush
certainly don't sound as if they will.
Roush made that clear to Busch, saying he expected the driver to
keep his commitment and that he was keeping commitments to his
"We'll have to work our way through this," he told Busch.
"But the thing I'll give you today is that you shouldn't expect a
release for 2006."
Busch was asked if he thought his departure after this season
would be best for everyone.
"You could speculate on that," he said. "For me, I'm happy
wherever I go."
He called 2006 a question mark but said he has a great
opportunity to win for either car owner. Beyond that Busch would
not comment on 2007.
"I've got 2005 to drive for this championship," he said.
"We're in good position. We're fifth in the points. It's hard to
go into the future."
He called the team's chemistry great and said there is no
misunderstanding among crew members about why he wanted to move to Penske.
"They know that it wasn't them. They know that it wasn't me,"
he said. "They know that it wasn't Roush Racing. They know that
it's this business."
Busch said there would be no letdown in his level of intensity,
whether it be practice, qualifying or racing. On the track, he
posted the 16th-fastest time among 46 cars before rain chased them
off the 2.45-mile road course.
There was no surprise at the top of the speed chart. Defending
race champion Tony Stewart, an overwhelming favorite to win for the
fifth time in seven races, was much faster than anyone else.
After winning last Sunday at Indianapolis, Stewart will be
trying for his third victory here and fifth overall on a road
He took his Chevrolet around the 11-turn layout at 122.052 mph,
but had no explanation for why he was so fast other than to give
credit to crew chief Greg Zipadelli and the team.
"Hey, you've got to remember that I just drive," Stewart said.
"I get in the car and I drive. It's been literally that simple."
Road-racing specialist Scott Pruett was next at 120.447.
Four-time Glen winner Martin went 120.441.