CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Kurt Busch has a new ride.
Busch, who became one of NASCAR's most polarizing figures this past season, will return to the Sprint Cup series in 2012 to drive the No. 51 car for Phoenix Racing and owner James Finch.
Busch told The Associated Press that the deal was finalized late Wednesday night over a few cold Miller Lites in an establishment located "in the shadows of Charlotte Motor Speedway."
"This is a fantastic opportunity to have fun at the cup level and bring this Phoenix Racing team up from where it is," Busch said. "I'm really looking forward to it. I really think this is going to be a lot of fun."
Busch isn't used to working with smaller teams.
He previously drove Fords for Jack Roush and Dodges for Penske, will be behind the wheel of a Chevrolet for Finch, who has been a race team owner since 1990.
Busch parted ways with Penske Racing following a tumultuous season in 2011 in which he clashed with two reporters in Richmond and then was fined $50,000 by NASCAR for profanities directed at ESPN's Jerry Punch and using a hand gesture at the season's final race Nov. 20 in Homestead, Fla.
He said he's looking forward to getting back to his roots in some ways, saying this will be a lot like his days on the Southwest Tour.
"This is a small group of guys with a lot of big hearts," Busch said. "They have to because they know they have to face the big programs. This is going to be an opportunity to have a lot of fun with James Finch, who's great. And they have the Hendrick equipment which helps, too."
A.J. Allmendinger has taken over for Busch in the No. 22 Dodge at Penske.
Busch has won 24 Sprint Cup races, as well as the 2010 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
Finch is hoping Busch will bring more wins to his team, saying in a release that "all we want to do is win."
"With Kurt we have a shot every week," Finch said. "He's a past champion and he's proven he can win everywhere. Our sponsors are looking forward to Kurt representing their brands. We have excellent equipment and a hard-working group of guys who want that trophy at the end of every race. Kurt's the guy who can deliver it to them."
Finch's No. 51 car finished 30th in points last year with Landon Cassill driving.
Finch's only Sprint Cup victory came in the April 2009 race at Talladega Superspeedway when he employed Brad Keselowski as his driver.
"It's going to be old-school racing, where we show up, race hard and go for the win," Busch said in his release. "And if we don't win, we'll go back to the shop, work hard and do it all over again next week. That's the way we all started racing, and it's great to get back to that."
In the past, Finch has criticized Busch's behavior.
"He needs to simmer down a while," Finch once told ESPN. "There are a lot of people that don't like Kurt. He's never done anything to me personally. He just needs to look in the mirror and see what the problem is."
Now they'll get to work together.
"This is chance to look at life and have fun with it," Busch said.