Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - A year and a half after his Sprint Cup
Series career seemed to be in jeopardy, Kurt Busch has come full circle with
him signing a multi-year contract to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.
SHR announced on Tuesday that it will expand to a four-car team, and Busch
will be the driver of the fourth entry. The 35-year-old Busch is teaming with
Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick, who is in his last season with
Richard Childress Racing.
Busch coming on board with SHR next year might be his biggest career
opportunity, and it's certainly going to be a chance for him to return to
championship form in NASCAR's top series.
For quite some time, plans have been in the works for SHR co-owners Gene Haas
and Stewart to add a fourth team. The racing organization made its debut at
the start of the 2009 season, with Stewart and Ryan Newman as its drivers.
Patrick drove a part-time Sprint Cup schedule for the team in 2012. She is now
a full-time competitor in the series.
SHR announced last month that Harvick was in and Newman out for next season.
Now the team has added Busch to its star-studded lineup.
"Tony was slapping me a high five," Busch said. "He says we're tapping into
Gene's (Haas) wallet the way I wanted to. Tony is about finding better people
and better products to go and utilize so he has a better chance of winning."
This year, Busch is driving the No. 78 Chevrolet for Furniture Row Racing, a
single-car team owned by Barney Visser and located in Denver, Colo. Furniture
Row is one of a few NASCAR national touring series teams that doesn't have its
shop in North Carolina.
Busch has had quite a turnaround this year, following a tumultuous season in
2012. He sat no better than 23rd in points last year, driving for Phoenix
Racing in 29 races and then Furniture Row for the last six events. Busch was
suspended for the June race at Pocono for violating his probation when he made
threatening comments to a reporter from The Sporting News one week earlier in
a Nationwide Series event at Dover. Busch had been on probation for an
incident that occurred with Newman's team at Darlington.
Over the years, Busch has been in trouble with one team after another. He's
had numerous altercations with his team members, fellow competitors and
members of the media. In fact, his disorderly behavior has cost him his job
Busch drove for Roush Fenway Racing in his first five years in Cup. But he
lost his job at Roush with two races remaining in the 2005 season due to an
alcohol-related incident in Phoenix.
He spent his next six years with Penske Racing. But an incident with an ESPN
reporter during the 2011 season-finale in Homestead, Fla. led to Busch's
dismal from Roger Penske's team.
"It's easy as a 25-year-old to say you know everything, that you can do
everything by yourself," he said. "That's what I thought that I could do when
I moved from Roush Racing to Penske back in 2006, to bring Roger his first
championship. I thought I could wear all the weight on my back. That was not
the case. That's when you learn it's about the people, team communication,
how it filters through all the channels.
"The Penske thing, the image, all of that, it wasn't your own identity, you
were trying to be something else, stepping back and hitting the reset button,
heading to Phoenix Racing, finding the true fun and true reason to go to the
racetrack, rolling up your sleeves, getting dirty, being there with the guys,
to feel that camaraderie, that old school let's work hard and not think about
how to publicize things, how to put a twist on it to make it bigger than what
it's supposed to be. That was so educational for me with having 10 years of
experience in this sport."
Right now, Busch has a chance to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He is 12th
in the standings, but trails 10th-place Joey Logano by just six points. The
series heads to Atlanta this Labor Day weekend and then concludes its regular
season on Sept. 7 at Richmond.
No single-car team has been in the Chase before.
"We have to be perfect the next two weeks to make the Chase," Busch said. "I'm
as fired up as ever to try to deliver these guys into an area that they never
thought was achievable, and at the same time, I have the future in front of me
with Stewart-Haas Racing to know when you're starting a team out like this,
you have teammates such as Stewart, Harvick and Danica, we're going to be
putting all of the cars in the Chase next year. That's the difference of
trying one car versus four."
Busch's chances of making the Chase next year will certainly be greater.
The Sports Network