Stewart-Haas Racing still wants Kurt Busch to race the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford in 2018.
Although SHR has not picked up the option on the 2017 Daytona 500 winner and 2004 Cup champion yet, Tony Stewart expects Busch to remain with the organization.
On Tuesday, Stewart discussed the driver vacancies in the Nos. 10 and 41 teams on NBCSports’ NASCAR America.
“We don't know exactly who is going to be in the 10 car yet — but we’re working on it,” Stewart said of potential replacements for Danica Patrick. “We have a new partner with Smithfield that we’re excited about. They’ve been great to work with so far, and I’m really excited about that partnership.
Kurt Busch's situation
“The 41 car is kind of still in the air. The reason we didn’t exercise Kurt’s option wasn’t because we don’t want him there. We fully intend on having him next year, but it’s obviously dictated on sponsorship. These cars don’t run themselves, and it costs a lot of money to do it. We need to make sure we have sponsorship for that car before we commit to him for next year.
“But our plan at Stewart-Haas is to have Kurt in that car next year with Monster and Haas Automation.”
Busch has 29 wins, 21 poles, 130 top fives and 256 top 10 finishes in 603 starts.
On Sunday, Busch came from 17th on Sunday to finish eighth in the second stage at Chicagoland Speedway. He was running fifth when a vibration developed on the No. 41 Ford. Although Busch soldiered on as long as possible, he finally had to pit on Lap 201, received a speeding penalty and dropped 20th, two laps down. Busch finished 19th and is currently 12th in the standings.
Looking at their options
Stewart was not able to reveal which driver would replace Patrick in the No. 10 car. The former three-time NASCAR champion and current co-owner of SHR said the company’s decision depends on timing.
“A lot of times you don’t have that many options of who that is already in the series in the NASCAR system that you feel like is somebody you want to put in a position with your organization,” Stewart said. “So you obviously want to look down the line as to who is coming, but you have to fill that seat now.
“So we’re looking at options as who is available. You’re trying to find out whose contracts are up, when they’re up. So a lot of it is timing. Timing is everything in this scenario.”
As for Patrick, who has spent the last five seasons with SHR, Stewart sees a lot of options for the driver.
“Danica is one of the few people that has the ability to stay in NASCAR if she wants, go back to IndyCar or go road racing. There’s not a lot of drivers that have been released this year that have the option to do so many things. It shows how versatile and talented she is to have that many options.
“It’s really going to be a matter of what does she want to do? Where’s her heart at? Where’s her mind at? What does she really want to do for the next five, 10, 15 years?”