Busch out?

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS -

Kurt Busch be­gan the 2017 sea­son by win­ning the Day­tona 500. He will end it likely out of a job. In a sur­pris­ing twist, Busch is out at Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing, ac­cord­ing to mul­ti­ple me­dia out­lets. The team re­port­edly in­formed Busch, the 2004 Mon­ster En­ergy NASCAR Cup Se­ries cham­pion, on Tues­day that it will not pick up his con­tract op­tion.

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 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) Kurt-Busch back in our (at) Mon­ster-En­ergy/ (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 mul­ti­mil­lion 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 vic­to­ries, 21 poles, 127 top fives and 252 top 10s in 597 ca­reer starts.

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 at Home­stead.

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