Kurt Busch began the 2017 season by winning the Daytona 500. He will end it likely out of a job.
In a surprising twist to NASCAR’s “Silly Season,” Busch is out at Stewart-Haas Racing, according to multiple media outlets. The team reportedly informed Busch on Tuesday that it will not pick up the option, which comes as a shocking pink slip to Busch, who is the 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.
Within hours of the news posting online, the team issued this tweet:
“We don’t comment on contract status, but we expect (at)KurtBusch back in our (at)MonsterEnergy/(at)Haas — Automation Ford in ‘18. Just sayin’.”
That isn’t a denial. It just leads to more speculation, with the possibility that the team will try to re-sign Busch at a much lower price. NASCAR teams do not release contract figures, but drivers of Busch’s status command multi-million dollar yearly deals. Stewart-Haas has until midnight on Tuesday to reverse the move, and that’s not likely.
The decision will amp up speculation that Stewart-Haas will morph into a two-car show for 2018, with only Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer in the mix.
Speculation has focused on the team not bringing back Danica Patrick, who has struggled throughout her NASCAR career.
That was never a problem for Busch, who has 29 Cup series wins, 21 poles, 127 top fives and 252 top 10s in 597 career starts.
Just a few weeks back, he was still reveling in the buzz of winning the Daytona 500.
“I would say a few weeks after that, we were slightly hung-over, not necessarily literally,” Busch said during a media availability at Daytona International Speedway before the Coke Zero 400. “It just seemed like a fog. The energy.
“…We’re ordering rings, flags. We’re taking the Harley J. Earl trophy to Ford’s headquarters, Monster’s headquarters, Haas’ headquarters…”
It’s been a nice run for the organization after Stewart-Haas switched manufacturers from Chevrolet to Ford this season. They remain a formidable group with the exception of Patrick.
Busch has been with Stewart-Haas since Busch announced in August of 2013 that he was leaving Furniture Row Racing to join one of the super teams in NASCAR.
It was the culmination of an inspiring comeback for Busch, 38, finally shedding much of the temperamental baggage that he had carried with him throughout his career. He was bounced at Penske Racing after the 2011 season for various emotional hissy fits, which included a profanity-laced tirade against an ESPN broadcaster in Homestead.