LONG POND, Pa. — Kurt Busch's talent behind the wheel has never been challenged. It's why he always had a ride.
Busch's fiery temper has never been fully harnessed and it's the reason he suddenly has a job to salvage and a reputation to repair.
Busch was absent Friday at Pocono Raceway as part of the one-week suspension levied by NASCAR for verbally abusing a media member. The 2004 Cup champion is not eligible to return to a NASCAR-sanctioned event until June 13. Busch has free time to think about his Tuesday meeting with Phoenix Racing owner James Finch and decide if this frayed relationship can be saved, or, if perhaps a professional divorce is on the horizon.
"I don't want to lean one way or the other," Phoenix general manager Steve Barkdoll said Friday. "Ultimately, everybody in this garage knows Kurt's as good a talent as anybody out there. It'd be crazy for us not to want Kurt in our car. But some things certainly have to change for that to be that way."
Finch told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio this week their partnership will be on a race-by-race basis.
Barkdoll laid out a glum picture of Busch's first season with underfunded Phoenix.
"We have wrecked 14 cars and we are not attracting any sponsors as of right now," Barkdoll said. "We want to keep this company going and part of that is to get this turned around. We certainly want Kurt to be part of that, but he's got to do his part, because James is most certainly doing his part."