|Kurt Busch joins Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR|
We asked our contributors for their input on the following questions:
What do you think of this deal? Are you surprised another top-level team is giving Busch an opportunity given his history? Do you think these often temperamental drivers will be able to work together and be successful? Is it too soon for SHR to add a fourth team to their stable? (Several teams have tried the four-car deal but Hendrick Motorsports seems to be the only one to have long-term success.) Do you have any additional thoughts on this? Is this a slap in the face to Ryan Newman?
NASCAR is many things, but it's not the best secret keeper. Reports have been swirling for a few weeks that Kurt Busch may be making his way to Stewart-Haas Racing for a multi-year deal beginning in 2014. These reports were confirmed Monday, with a formal announcement on Tuesday.
So what happens now?
Furniture Row Racing, the team that gave Busch, a driver with known anger issues, a second chance, is left scrambling for a driver. Stewart-Haas Racing, a relatively new operation, expands to four teams with four entirely different personalities. There is only one other four-car team in NASCAR. Its name is Hendrick Motorsports.
Is this a good move?
In my eyes, no. Time and time again, we have seen Kurt Busch try to function within multi-car teams, and time and time again it has ended poorly. He doesn't have the patience to be part of the show. He needs to be the show. With Furniture Row Racing, all eyes are on him. He can communicate to everyone, and everyone communicates to him. Once he goes to Stewart-Haas, he is not the center of attention. My other issue with this is that Furniture Row deserves a chance to be competitive, and Kurt was bringing them to life. A team can't find their ground if they are constantly changing drivers and personnel. Kurt needed time to hone his attitude, his temper and his ways behind the wheel. Furniture Row was the best place for him to do that. They offered great equipment and a 24/7 focus on him. Now he moves to an organization where he he is the start-up fourth car and the tempers can flare.
In 2014, Stewart-Haas will be home to Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch. These four drivers under one roof are no easy feat for anyone. Will it be exciting to watch? Sure. Will it be a daily struggle to keep tempers in check? Absolutely. Stewart, Harvick, Busch and Patrick are four of the most polarizing personalities in the sport. It remains to be seen how they will all work together.
The other unknown is how well the four-car setup will work at Stewart-Haas. Many teams have tried to field four cars, and many have failed. To date, only Hendrick Motorsports fields four competing cars. It takes a lot of sponsorship money and personnel support. Being a new team, it may be a little too soon to be exploring adding a fourth car, although with the money that Patrick adds to the mix through sponsorship and merchandise sales, they may not be financially concerned.
Where does this leave Ryan Newman, who has been faithful to Stewart-Haas since day one? Well, right now it leaves him with an uncertain future, but with a lot of big name rides open. It's no secret that Juan Pablo Montoya will vacate the 42 at the end of 2013 or that Kevin Harvick will be leaving the 29 to come to Stewart Haas. It's my opinion that Newman will land with a multi-year deal with a team that values his contributions to the sport, both on and off the track. But I'm sure he's a little bitter about helping Tony build his race team and being kicked to the curb, and he should be. Think about it, Ryan is without a ride, and Kurt Busch, who has threatened to punch reporters and cursed out crew members on the radio is being offered multi-year deals. Seems like an alternate universe, doesn't it?
I wholeheartedly agree that everyone deserves a second chance, but this seems like it's too soon for everyone involved. Four car teams are a huge gamble, financially. Kurt Busch still has a lot to prove to sponsors and owners. I think it takes more than a year and a half to repair the damage that he did during his tenure of rage. As far as Ryan Newman is concerned, I am sure he will land safely but I hate the way it is happening to him.
It's just another silly season.
|Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs|
Lisa Janine Cloud:
I wasn't surprised that Kurt Busch signed a multi-year contract with a major team. I was surprised that the contract is with Stewart-Haas Racing, and even more surprised that the architect of the deal was Gene Haas rather than Tony Stewart.
There's probably more to that story than we'll know until Stewart gets back to the track next season, if then. Bottom line: partner Gene Haas essentially said, "It's my money, I'll spend it how I like." Easy to do with Smoke convalescing.
Busch comes with a ton of talent and a full cart of baggage. Though I've been impressed with the change in him, he'll be tested being in such an ego-packed stable as SHR has put together.
I don't think there will be sparks, no punches thrown - at least not at the track.
Probably the best quote from the recent press conference announcement was Busch talking about the new car number. He said:
"My eight-year-old Houston says, 'Put 360 on the door!'
'Because you've come full circle.'"
From the mouths of babes.
Keep an eye on SHR. Next year should be interesting, to say the least.
|Credit: Beth Bence Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs|
My first thought on hearing the news regarding Busch was, “Lions, tigers, and bears! Oh my!” but that’s exactly what’s going to be going on at SHR. With Smoke, Happy and The Outlaw as teammates, things are going to be interesting to say the least.
I say, "Bring it on!" Who doesn’t like a little excitement?
You can’t deny that Kurt Busch is a talent. That talent is attached to a passionate driver who sometimes lets his emotions govern his actions. He’s human and like many of us, doesn’t always say the right thing, but in terms of pure racing talent he’s pretty damn good. If Busch can keep that combustible temperament under control he may return to his former level of competitiveness under the Stewart-Haas banner. If not, all fingers will be pointed at Gene Haas, who made this deal happen without consulting Tony Stewart.
While I’m excited to see what the entire SHR team can accomplish in 2014, part of me is concerned that now Busch will forget all he’s learned the last couple of seasons. I like Kurt Busch the underdog. I enjoy seeing a driver who has lost some of the best rides in the business have to put everything he has into making the best out of the situation at hand. Busch has given Furniture Row Racing a real chance at not only being competitive, but on the cusp of victory several times. Let’s just hope the tenacious driver and the underdog can meld into one.
As for whether or not it’s too soon to add a fourth team to the stable, that’s something a lot of people are discussing. Several teams, who have been in NASCAR far longer than SHR, have failed at fielding four competitive teams. Some might say that Danica Patrick isn’t really competitive and that’s partly true; she’s not contending for the win, but she’s still finding her wheels and has shown growth since coming to stock car racing. Will adding a fourth team hurt or help her growth? If nothing else it may take some attention off of her and allow her to grow without being constantly under the media microscope.
The only real loser in this deal is Ryan Newman, who finds himself without a ride because of sponsorship issues. One has to wonder why Gene Haas wouldn’t open his checkbook for mild-mannered family man Ryan Newman. There’s got to be more to this story and I’m sure we’ll hear it.
For now I’ll say good luck to Kurt Busch and his new ride. You can’t blame a man for taking an opportunity he probably thought he’d never see again in his career. Busch can’t be blamed for how this deal unfolded, but he can take this opportunity to show the world that he really has turned over a new leaf.
|Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs|
I'm still trying to digest the lengthy comments from the SHR press conference, but here are my initial, gut-level responses about the people and process of the deal.
Stewart-Haas Racing adding a fourth car doesn’t phase me. Team co-owner Gene Haas has the funding to make his company the car’s primary sponsor, so why not?
But how that fourth car was added is troubling. Haas made an offer to Busch while Tony Stewart was, using Haas’ own words, “incapacitated where I couldn’t talk to him.”
“I didn't have really a chance to talk to Tony about it at all since he wasn't really talking to anybody,” Haas said. “So I kind of did this on my own, probably overstepped my authority a tick there. I'm not used to having too many authorities to work with. I've been pretty much on my own. I did realize that Tony might be a little bit upset about it. He was, he was a little upset.”
When Stewart was informed about the offer already made to Busch, Smoke asked Haas to wait. But he didn’t wait. The fact that Greg Zipadelli said Stewart is OK with it now doesn’t change the fact that the deal was arranged without the team co-owner’s input. I wouldn't be surprised if more details about the timeline and who-said-what-to-whom are still to come.
On the upside, as questions swirl about whether this group of colorful drivers – Stewart, Harvick, Busch and Patrick – will be able to get along, I’m optimistic. I think the four of them will band together to prove the naysayers wrong. Even if their strong personalities lead to clashes behind closed doors sometimes, I believe they’ll show poise in public.
One other thing. On this SHR driver merry-go-round, Ryan Newman is the one flying off into the playground dust. But Newman, who won at Indy in July for SHR, is a talented driver and a class act. Whether it’s EGR or RCR or someone we don’t expect, I have faith the Rocketman will get a running start, climb back on and land a decent ride.
|Photo Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs|
When it first broke about Kurt Busch joining Stewart-Haas I thought, "ARE you kidding me? How could Tony do that to Ryan (Newman)?" After learning more details on the deal, I'm still unhappy, but for other reasons.
Tony Stewart and Greg Zippadelli know the day in and day out operations of running a championship team, Gene Haas does not.
While it was Haas racing the team was thrilled for a top-30 finish, not quite champions huh?
Tony and Zippy know the team hasn't performed to standards with only three teams this year, so adding another could adversely affect all the teams of Stewart-Haas.
I no longer feel it was a slap to Ryan from Tony. It was made very apparent Tuesday that this was all Haas' doing. If I were Stewart, I would be looking for another partner for the dance. The way he was disrespected is bottom line NOT good business, no matter what the business is. If it was not for Stewart, they would still be a 30th-place team or start-and-park team.
The company has grown to the capacity it is today because of Stewart. Haas may want to remember the times he visited victory lane before it was Stewart-Haas, which should be rather easy for him because there were none.
|Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs|
I'm not surprised at all that Kurt Busch, the "Outlaw," is signing with a top-tier team. After his abusive behavior toward media and on the team radio lead to his leaving Penske and a tense season with Phoenix Racing, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion has had to rebuild himself from the ground up. And he's done it - gracefully and performance-wise - with Furniture Row Racing.
Busch has lifted the one-car team to new heights. The No. 78 team has become a consistent contender to win races and sits poised to make its first Chase. Even when things don't go his way, Busch has acted with class and motivated his team.
For Busch to do what he has done this year with the resources of a small team is downright impressive. He's not only winning fans, but attention from team owners and rightfully so. Coming back from a nearly career-ending situation has put the emphasis back on Busch's pure racing talent, which is where it should be.
I don't blame Gene Haas at all for seeing an opportunity with Busch and trying to snap him up. If I were a team owner, I'd do the same thing. How often is a driver with the talent and accomplishments that Busch offers available on the market?
While Haas went rogue by making an offer to Busch while Stewart is recovering from his broken leg, I'm gathering that what concerned Stewart at first was not the choice of Busch, but Stewart-Haas Racing's ability to expand to four teams. (Remember that Stewart actually defended Busch's comments and threats against a Sporting News reporter last year). Stewart's been saying for months that the team didn't have the resources nor sponsorship for a fourth team. It was the first thing Stewart said when Haas told him about his offer to Busch.
"At first he said, Oh, wow, we can't really do this because this is going to be too much of a load on the team," Haas said. "We're not prepared for it. We don't have the space. There's a whole line. He actually is an astute businessman. He thought about all these little things, where are we going to get the people, the money, where are the buildings going to come from. I didn't think about any of that. From Tony's standpoint, he's more of a businessman."
"About a week later, Tony said, 'OK, all right.' He thought, it's OK. What are you going to do? ... I stepped up and said I would fund it. It's very difficult to find a sponsor in less than 24 hours. So we did that, too."
Now Stewart-Haas Racing has the sponsorship and will operate their four teams out of two buildings, a setup similar to Hendrick Motorsports. Will SHR be able to duplicate Hendrick's success? That still remains to be seen. Hendrick is the only team with four consistently competitive teams, and it's taken them years to get to this point.
Does SHR have the driver talent to do it? Absolutely. Can you imagine Stewart, Busch, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick under one roof? Yes, that's a whole lot of attitude, but a lot of passion, too. We've seen the SHR drivers get into it with other drivers on the track, but so far, not with each other. Harvick will bring his remarkable racing talent, longtime friendship with Stewart and support of Patrick to the team. Stewart, Harvick and Busch don't let anyone push them around on the track, which Patrick is learning as she makes her way in NASCAR's top level. Though Patrick has yet to contend for race wins, she has made a lot of progress on the track. Having not one, but two Cup champions in Stewart and Busch on her team gives her an even bigger pool of knowledge to draw from.
Unfortunately, the odd man out is Ryan Newman. Stewart said in earlier comments he would like to keep Newman on if they could find sponsorship. Now they have the sponsorship, which comes too little, too late for the Brickyard 400 winner. But with his talent, I think the Rocketman will land on his feet. My bet's on Richard Childress Racing. But another option for Newman could be to build on the success Busch had with Furniture Row Racing. If I were heading that team, I'd definitely be looking Newman's way.
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