LAS VEGAS — Kurt Busch said he “absolutely” plans to return to Stewart-Haas Racing next season, as he continues to negotiate a contract to continue driving for the team.
The 2004 NASCAR Cup champion opened 2017 by winning the Daytona 500, which put him in the playoffs. The remainder of the season was mixed, and he finished 14th in the season standings.
SHR didn’t pick up Busch’s option as it awaited word on whether Monster Energy would continue to sponsor half the season.
Talking to media on Wednesday in Las Vegas as part of the NASCAR postseason awards celebration week, Busch held a Monster can and indicated he planned to return to SHR. Monster has not said whether it will return to SHR, while team co-owner Tony Stewart has said in recent weeks that the team is working on re-signing Busch, who has made the playoffs in all four years of driving for SHR.
“My best chance to win races, to win championships, is to be with Stewart-Haas Racing,” said the 39-year-old Busch, a 17-year veteran of the NASCAR Cup Series. “I talked with other owners and the offers were about the same from other teams.
“But the offers weren’t the same as far as level of car. To work with [engine builder] Doug Yates and Ford and all the individuals that I’ve grown around and felt comfortable with at Stewart-Haas, that’s not available at other teams.”
Busch said he has no deadline to finalize a contract. The first NASCAR Cup activity of the season (not including any potential tests) is Feb. 10 at Daytona.
“We’ll see how it all plays out,” Busch said. “I’m not too worried about it. No deadline. With the support I have from Monster and the support I have from Ford, everybody is on the same page.
“It’s more about the people and plugging in the right puzzle pieces in the right place.”
Busch crew chief Tony Gibson has expressed a desire to come off the road but has said he will do whatever the team asks of him next year.
“[My contract] all is still a work in progress,” Busch said. “I feel like Monster has stood by my side and Ford has really been very supportive. I like the way the two sides are coming together.
“My focus is in the people and the personnel and how we’re going to make this work to be more successful next year. Winning Daytona this year was great, but we want more. We want to be that championship contender. We want to make a run through the playoffs.”