Roush plans to make Busch honor contract
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 Penske.
"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 optimistic.
"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 sponsors.
"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 course.
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.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
ESPN TOP HEADLINES
- Ohio State QB Miller out for season
- Browns coach not ready to pick starting QB
- Strasburg helps Nats run win streak to eight
- Pettine: Gordon's effort in loss disappointing