CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kurt Busch said Monday he has signed with Stewart-Haas Racing, which is rapidly developing into a super-team and will have four cars next season with the addition of the 2004 NASCAR champion.
“This is the kind of situation every driver wants to be in and I’m grateful to Gene Haas and Haas Automation for providing me this opportunity,” Busch told The Associated Press. “Gene wants to win, and wants me to go out there and perform to the best of my abilities.”
The deal was first reported by Fox Sports and ESPN. A news conference was scheduled for Tuesday by SHR.
Busch recently received an offer from SHR co-owner Haas to leave Furniture Row Racing to join a team that will now expand next season to four cars. He’ll be teammates with co-owner Tony Stewart, who is out the rest of this year with a broken leg, Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick, who is leaving Richard Childress Racing to join SHR.
Once Stewart returns — the team has said he’ll be back in time for next year’s Daytona 500 — SHR will have three drivers with a combined 96 Cup victories and four championships. They also have a combined 675 top-10 finishes. Patrick is in her first full season of Cup.
Harvick is replacing Ryan Newman in the lineup, and Stewart said last month that Newman was being let go because SHR did not have the capability to expand to four cars. But Haas stepped in and courted Busch on his own, and will fund Busch’s ride out of his own pocket with sponsorship from his CNC machine company.
Furniture Row tried desperately to keep Busch, who joined the team with six races remaining last year and has the No. 78 Chevrolet in contention for a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship for the first time in team history.
Furniture Row had just one win, three top-five finishes, eight top-10s and 48 laps led in almost 200 races before Busch. Since Busch came aboard, the car has six top-five finishes, 14 top-10s, 368 laps led and has qualified on the front row seven times.
“It was always our intention to extend Kurt’s contract with Furniture Row Racing,” general manager Joe Garone said. “We made him an offer last week. Though he did not accept our offer we respect his decision and wish him future success. His driving skill and being a dedicated team player will always be appreciated at Furniture Row Racing. But for right now the main focus for Kurt and the team is to qualify for the Chase and contend for the 2013 Sprint Cup Series championship.”
Busch was ninth in points before Saturday night’s 31st-place finish dropped him to 12th in the standings with two races remaining to set the Chase field.
Stewart left Joe Gibbs Racing to become co-owner of Haas’ lowly team in 2009, bringing Newman with him and immediately making it a legitimate and winning organization. Stewart won the championship in 2011, and brought Patrick aboard in 2012 for 10 Sprint Cup races in preparation for her full-time addition this season.
Harvick was signed in November of last year, a full season before he’d join the team, and now Busch is inked, giving SHR an aggressive driver lineup and doubling its car count in just two seasons.
As for Furniture Row, Garone said progress this season has been shown by the “consistently fast race cars that we have brought to the track week in and week out.”
“We, along with our technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, are deeply committed to continuing the work in progress,” he said. “We are currently in a search process for a new driver in 2014, one who shares the same commitment and winning attitude that we all do at Furniture Row Racing.”