Shifting Gears: Is Kurt Busch pondering retirement?

Kurt Busch is “Shifting Gears” as he describes so honestly in his latest Monster Energy project, filmed in the Florida Keys last December.

The Ash Hodges-directed piece chronicles the highlights of the NASCAR Cup champion’s career in racing and poses the question: What’s next for Busch? 

After two decades of competing on stock car’s top tour and dabbling in IndyCar, dragsters and sports cars, the 42-year-old racer still wants to win. 

And he's determined to do so. 

“The video brings to light the Monster Energy lifestyle,” Busch said. “We’ve seen their rides, all the FX guys, the dirt bike guys, all of their athletes and all of the connections—F1, Moto GP and NASCAR.

“We created a video. We created a speed run. And we created a story. We put together a production that will almost make you cry. It will make you smile, and it will warm your heart the way it all plays out. It blends in different Monster athletes, a few actors, but most importantly, it’s all about the fun and the attitude and lifestyle of Monster Energy. It shows the enjoyment of where I am in my career.”

While Busch has filmed a variety of videos over the last 10 years as a Monster spokesperson, he exposes his creative side in this collaboration with Hodges and Lurk Productions. Lurk has showcased a host of athletes over the years. Busch knew they would make ideal partners in his passion project. 

“A lot of the production people who were able to make it down to South Florida in September hadn’t had work since March due to Covid-19,” Busch said. “You should have just seen the spirit of all the people who were so excited to go back to work and so excited to make this happen. That’s the Monster fraternity. 

“Vanilla Ice makes a cameo in there. The Monster Girls are a part of it. It’s our lifestyle. It’s the Monster Energy lifestyle—of kicking ass, having fun, and doing it at a top-notch, professional level.”

Keeping with the Red Bull lifestyle theme, Busch relied on his favorite mode of transportation—a race car--for this road trip. To remain authentic, the car was straight out of the Ganassi Racing stable.

“I requested a car that I had raced at Michigan Speedway a year ago,” Busch said. “The engine was as updated as I could get from Hendrick Engines. So I got a 750-horsepower, Michigan-built car, and I was able to top it out on Seven Mile Bridge at 202 miles-per-hour.

“The county, the police, everybody was so warm and welcoming. They loved the action and they loved our intrigue for the tourism. This video will help promote the Keys with our ride through Marathon and down to Key West. I think it will draw people to the region.”

Before embarking on “Shifting Gears,”  Busch spoke to other athletes on the subject of life after sports, including Mark Martin and Rob Gronkowski. He enlisted the help of his buddy “Gronk”—who not only contemplated retirement himself but stepped away from the NFL only to return in 2020 and win his fourth Super Bowl last Sunday. Busch became fast friends with Gronkowski after winning the 2017 Daytona 500.

“It’s like dumb and dumber,” Busch said of his escapades with Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end. “We first partied together after I won Daytona.” 

Who was the last man standing after that night?

“I had to end up at your media breakfast the next day, so I would say Gronk,” Busch said. “I kept telling myself I needed two hours of sleep before then. My father-in-law had his boat down there. We were downtown at a couple of bars. Yeah, we were running pretty hard. 

“I got back to the motor home and was watching replays of the race and Ashley (Busch’s wife) told me to go to bed.”

Busch's first championship came in 2004--the first year NASCAR adopted its playoff system. Last year he won his 32nd race, posted his 28th pole, and finished 10th in the standings. 

With the opportunities dwindling to add another Harley J. Earl trophy to his collection, Busch’s focus now turns to the Great American Race. In Thursday night’s second Duel qualifier, Busch experienced an electrical issue in the closing laps and finished ninth. He’ll start 20th on Sunday.

“I was happy with the performance of the Monster Energy Chevy,” Busch said. “The handling has improved quite a bit. We haven’t sacrificed any speed. The 9 car (Chase Elliott) and I clicked at a new level. (Ross) Chastain had some trouble but he was doing a great job finding his way and helping out in the Chevy world—the way we’re all supposed to work together. 

“It all worked out. The 3 car (Austin Dillon) was able to win our Duel. I had an electrical glitch at the end, but I’m really happy with the way we’re sitting heading into Sunday.”

As for whether 2021 will be his last season in NASCAR, that remains to be seen. The Cup champion--and future NASCAR Hall of Famer--certainly deserves more than a half-hearted sendoff in the middle of a pandemic. Engaging with the fans is at the core of Busch's persona.

So, is he ready for retirement?

“I’m good both ways,” Busch said. “Right now, I have a contract through the end of this year, and we’re talking about what the future might be. Some of that’s on track and some of that’s off track.

“I feel there’s a task in front of me to deliver at Chip Ganassi Racing, and that’s to be a 20-year veteran and dial in the new car the best I can and give the best information I can to help the company move forward. I just want to help the team.”


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