Gene Haas Says He Is ‘Optimistic’ On Kurt Busch’s Return

Photo by Gregg Ellman/Harold Hinson Photography

By Jerry Jordan, Editor

LEXINGTON, OH – Despite not picking up Kurt Busch’s contract option for 2018, Gene Haas told Kickin’ the Tires and another reporter, on Saturday, that he is “optimistic” the 2017 Daytona 500 winner will return to the team.

The problem, Haas said, was that Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is waiting to see what the sponsor of the No. 41 intends to do going forward. Haas, who owns Haas CNC, is a co-primary sponsor with Monster Energy, so it is doubtful he’s waiting for a decision from his own company.

“We’re really just kind of waiting for the sponsor to give us an indication of the direction they’re going to go in,” Haas said. “Once we have a better grip on the money and the direction we’re going into and who the sponsor’s going to be, then we can sit there and finalize something with Kurt. We expect Kurt to be back next year. But I’m sure he’s pretty panicky, going, ‘Oh my God, what’s going on?’ But it seems like these things take longer and longer every year. But we’re optimistic.

“Kurt brought Monster in a couple years ago and that was great because basically what it did was kept him in the car for a longer period of time. We kind of had different plans when we started out and things kind of went up and down.”

Busch, who won the 2004 Cup Series champion, signed with SHR in August 2013 while he was still at Furniture Row Racing in the No. 78 Chevrolet. he officially joined the team the following season. At the time, he already had a personal services agreement with Monster Energy and the company became co-primary sponsors with Haas CNC in 2016.

Since 2014 Busch has accumulated, at least, one win in each of his four seasons, qualified for the playoffs each year and had 63 Top 10 finishes. He is currently 14th in the standings after finishing seventh overall in 2016 and eighth overall in 2015.

“We really wanted to win a lot of races and compete for the championship, and we just haven’t done that well,” Haas said. “That’s a disappointment from the Haas Automation standpoint, but still he’s a Top 5 driver and maybe if the planets all align we can get back into that race in Miami. That’s where we want to get.”

Asked if Busch would carry sponsorship from Monster Energy, Haas CNC or another potential partner, Haas replied, “That’s the question. If you tell me, I’ll tell you what I know.”

This past week, Busch said he isn’t worried about the sponsorship situation and believes things will get worked out one way or the other. Now that the option period has passed on his contract, he is a free agent and has been taking calls from several teams, he said. Still, he likes the team around him at SHR and thinks things are beginning to come together well.

“There is no stress whatsoever,” Busch said, a week ago. “There’s plenty of time for all options to unfold. There are a couple of offers already, so we will see how things work out.”

Attempts to reach Monster Energy for comment have been unsuccessful. The company is known for its shrewd negotiating tactics, which are said to include waiting as long as possible to get the best bang for its buck.

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