Stewart-Haas Racing could look a bit different in 2018

Gene Haas isn’t ready to reveal his 2018 Monster Energy Cup lineup — yet.

Stewart-Haas Racing could look a bit different in 2018
Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Gene Haas, Haas Automotion President
Cole Custer, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford
Danica Patrick, Stewart-Haas Racing Ford

While Kevin Harvick signed an extension with Stewart-Haas Racing last May, and Clint Bowyer is in the first year of his contract, drivers Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick are not locked in for next season.

“Contracts are signed — and expire — at all different times,” Haas told motorsport.com. “It’s hard to say when one person’s contract is going to expire because there are options and things like that. I think that’s why they call it silly season. We kind of start looking at what we want to do. The drivers do the same thing. Sponsors do the same thing.

“In order for all the pieces to fall into place, you have to take all three parties — you’ve got to take the drivers, the owners and the sponsors and see if you can’t align all the stars up and get them to agree on something.”

Keeping all four teams

Although some organizations have downsized recently due the rising costs of racing, Haas has no plans of eliminating any of his four Cup squads.

“I think, financially, running four teams makes sense, because with this new charter system we’re paid money to run the cars not only from NASCAR (purses) but with our relationship with Ford,” Haas said.

“If we can have a driver that wins races — and with a reasonable sponsor — all the teams can be profitable. And that’s what we’re here for is to try to make a little money at this.”

This season, Haas has subsidized two of his teams with the Haas Automation brand. Bowyer has run the Haas livery in 12 of the first 16 races. Busch, who was recruited by Haas and has carried the sponsor since joining SHR in 2014, split the branding with Monster in 15 races — including the Daytona 500.

On the Xfinity team side, Haas continues to support Cole Custer’s racing efforts.

For the team owner, who also bankrolls the Haas F1 Team efforts of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, NASCAR doesn’t appear to be cramping his style.

“As I alluded to earlier, sponsorships can make anywhere from 25 percent to 100 percent of running the car,” Haas said. “There are other revenue streams (such as Ford) — and you have winnings from NASCAR. All of these things add up to generate the revenue it takes to run a team.

“So, to say, ‘If we don’t have a sponsor, does that mean we shouldn’t run?’ No, that means we’d lose the money from the other sources. I think it’s kind of a business decision. If you can get money from all the sources, you can actually make a little money from this. If one of them drops out, you just might have to wait for a year or so until you line up another one. It would be foolish to drop a team, because then we would lose money from the manufacturer and NASCAR, which is a substantial amount of money.”

Outlook for Patrick and Busch

Patrick, 35, is still searching for her first top-five finish after five seasons behind the wheel of the No. 10 Ford. Of her seven top 10s, Patrick’s top result was sixth at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2014. Her sole pole came in the 2013 Daytona 500. In 170 races, Patrick has led 64 laps and has 66 lead-lap finishes. Her best finish in the final Cup standings was 24th twice (2015 and 2016).

Busch, 38, has won five races — including the 2017 Daytona 500 — since joining SHR in 2014. He has also qualified for NASCAR’s playoffs each of the four years. Haas didn’t have a timeline for picking up Busch’s option.

“A sponsor, who will remain nameless, typically likes to negotiate in January, so it’s a problem,” Haas said. “You have to wait until…I know a lot of people have these options, but a lot of people don’t like to make a decision until a month after the last possible time you can make a decision.

“That’s just how it goes. Everybody has deadlines, and we always manage to overshoot them.”

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