More Dominoes to Fall as Kurt Busch Nears Free-Agent Status

Photo by Alan Marler/Harold Hinson Photogrpahy

By Jerry Jordan, Editor
POCONO, Pa. – Although many of the dominoes in the ‘Who’s Gonna Drive for Whom” game have already fallen, there is a key driver – Kurt Busch – whose future is still up in the air.

In a matter of days, Busch will become a free agent, of sorts, as the notification period in his contract will elapse. Still, Busch is optimistic he will be back at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018 and that talking to other teams won’t be necessary.

For clarity, this is an option year for Busch where SHR can decide if they want him to drive the No. 41 car next season. Although the wording of Busch’s contract is unknown, in most cases, that means a team must tell the driver they want him/her back by a certain date. If that date passes, then the driver is free to begin negotiations with other teams. It essentially makes him a free agent.

“Things are shaping up,” Busch said. “My contract option comes up soon and we are just working with everybody – with Haas, with Monster and with Ford to put it all together.”

This past week, Ford Performance invited all of the Ford drivers to a retreat in the Pocono area as a way of showing their appreciation and to get input on how Ford can improve performance on and off the track. The drivers had a chance to relax and interact with one another along with Ford executives but it was also a chance to talk business, Busch said.

“It was a blast. We went up to a lodge in the Pocono area and did all different types of activities and drinking games but we also talked a lot about the state of the sport and other manufacturers and what we can all do better together to develop the Ford gang,” Busch said. “It was good to get all the drivers together in one spot – a lot of jokes, a lot of story-telling but then there was a good bit of business, too.”

Currently, there are several Ford teams with open charters, that are also in need of a quality driver/sponsor combination. Richard Petty Motorsports and Roush-Fenway Racing both leased out a charter to other teams this season and will have to make a decision on how they utilize them for 2018.

Busch kicked off the season by putting NASCAR’s new entitlement sponsor, Monster Energy, in victory lane at the biggest race of the season. And now, it’s Monster Energy that holds the key to his future. The company, known for its shrewd negotiating skills and isn’t afraid to wait until the last minute in hopes of getting the best financial advantage.

Still, Monster Energy has been loyal to Busch. The company stood by him throughout much of his racing career. After he won the Daytona 500, the company even shut down its Corona, Ca. headquarters for an hour, or so, to allow its employees to pose with Busch alongside the Harley J. Earl trophy.

Attempts to obtain a comment from Monster Energy on its future plans with Busch have been unsuccessful and a spokesperson for Stewart-Haas Racing said the organization, “doesn’t comment on the status of any of its contracts, be it driver or partner related.”

2 Comments

  1. Al Torney

    July 31, 2017 at 9:56 am

    Let the ride buying begin. Do you keep a driver who has won races, a championship and qualifies for the play offs or one who can provide sponsorship dollars? Good question.
    Things are going to get quite interesting in the next few weeks. We know RCR wants to keep three teams. Kenseth would be a good fit there to get a new team up and running quickly. Petty and Rousch will have to field cars for the Charters they leased this year or give them up. Penske is in the market for a charter for Blaney. Quality rides just aren’t there for drivers like Kenseth, Busch, and Kahn. We know Petty wants Wallace in his second car. While it appears that Patrick is doing better by her finishes, two top fifteens in her last two races, it’s only because some top runners have had problems. Yesterday Johnson, McMurray, Lagano, Larsen and Blaney had the problems. She only gets a top twenty finish when enough front runners have problems. Otherwise she ionly finishes ahead of the under funded teams. If Tony doesn’t hold a grudge for Bristol Kenseth would be a perfect way to get the 10 team into the playoffs next year. While Patrick is not getting the media attention she once got she is still very marketable and may be able to hang on to her ride at SHR. However do they want to keep a back marker in a quality ride for that reason.?
    With the push to get youngsters into Cup at a cheaper cost it may be the end for drivers like Kenseth, Busch, Kahn and Patrick. I don’t know if Kenseth and Busch would drive for underfunded teams just to drive for the sake of driving. They could wind up like Biffle.
    The sport has a myriad of problems that can’t seem to go away. Except for a couple of races the trucks and Xfinity series have horrible attendence figures. Indy was a disgrace for both Xfinity and Cup in this regard. With continual decreases in tv ratings and attendence and three series plus NASCAR and the tracks all going after a dwindling sponsorship market things are going to get far worse before they start to get better.

  2. Martie sweeney

    July 31, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    I may sound crazy after what has happened in the last few years but I think they need to go back to a two car max for teams. It’s getting to cookie cutter generic. It was just more interesting when there were more teams. I think a lot of teams never get formed because they feel they don’t have a chance against the big four. There would be more rides available for silly season and there would be more interesting stories on race day even when the racing is not that great.

    B B B. Let’s go crate racing boys!

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