Penske Racing has now confirmed that it has ended its relationship with Kurt Busch, effective immediately.
A team statement said it had reached a "mutual agreement" with the 33-year-old, whose position had been under pressure since he was caught on camera making an obscene gesture in his car at the NASCAR season finale at Homestead, and then later being filmed by a fan while directing obscenities at ESPN pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch and a cameraman during an attempted interview.
NASCAR fined Busch $50,000 for the incidents, and the team said it would conduct an internal investigation. It appeared that Busch might weather the storm, as he acknowledged at a media event ahead of NASCAR's awards ceremonies in Las Vegas that he was working with a sports psychologist to overcome his anger management issues, but the Penske organization obviously concluded an unacceptable line had been crossed.
"I appreciate the victories that Kurt has brought Penske Racing and our sponsors over the past six years," said team owner Roger Penske in the statement. "While I am disappointed that Kurt will not be racing for our team in the future, both Kurt and I felt that separating at this time was best for all parties, including our team and sponsors. I wish Kurt the best in his future racing endeavors."
A statement attributed to Busch said that the 2004 NASCAR Cup champion hoped to be able to make a fresh start.
"I am grateful to Penske Racing for six very productive years," Busch said in the statement. "Together we won a lot of races – 16 in all. Leaving a great organization and a lucrative contract is not easy, but it's an important step for me and allows me to take a deep breath to work on things that can make me a better driver and a better person. I want to personally thank Roger Penske for the opportunity that he has given me."
Penske said that it is now investigating its options for the driver of its No. 22 entry. The initial front runner for the seat appears to be David Ragan, who was released from Roush Fenway Racing at season's end. Other potential candidates include David Reutimann, Brian Vickers and longtime Penske man Sam Hornish Jr.