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Friday, August 23, 2013
SHR advancing on adding Kurt Busch

By David Newton
ESPN.com

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Stewart-Haas Racing is moving forward with its effort to sign 2004 Cup champion Kurt Busch, the organization's director of competition said Friday.

SHR also is in the process of signing crew chief Rodney Childers from Michael Waltrip Racing to work with Kevin Harvick in 2014.

Busch, ninth in points for Furniture Row Racing with three weeks left before the Cup playoffs, acknowledged last week that he had an offer from SHR and several other organizations.

SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said the organization is looking to expand to a fourth driver to work with Tony Stewart, Harvick and Danica Patrick next year.

"As far as Kurt's deal, that is moving forward," Zipadelli said. "We spent time this week talking about buildings and expanding. So as far as that part goes, we're pretty much committed."

Asked specifically if he felt SHR could sign Busch, Zipadelli added, "We're working on that. If we can get it all worked out, we're going to add that link."

In June, Stewart said SHR wasn't in a position to expand to four teams when he announced Ryan Newman would not return next season. Zipadelli said that was accurate at the time.

"Obviously, something's changed," Zipadelli said.

What changed is co-owner Gene Haas showed an interest in signing Busch and possibly using Haas Automation as a sponsor.

"Gene Haas is our partner and started this many years ago," Zipadelli said. "He's always liked Kurt. We talked about Kurt last year, putting him in the 39 [driven by Newman]. Things just didn't work out.

"It's nothing Ryan did wrong. He's done a great job. He's a great guy, a heck of a driver. This kind of got sprung on us 14 days ago. Gene just showed some interest in having the ability to put something together. That's really all it is. It's something we're working on. I don't know if it all will come together."

Busch didn't directly address the offer from SHR, but did acknowledge there are offers.

"It's nice when the phone is ringing and that people are asking what my future plans are and people want me to be a part of a program with them," Busch said after qualifying second for Saturday's race. "It's been a journey to say the least since things turned at the end of 2011."

Busch and Penske Racing agreed to part after the 2011 season following a last-race incident in which Busch was videotaped making an inappropriate hand gesture in the direction of the First Lady's motorcade and for using foul language during an interview with ESPN's Dr. Jerry Punch.

"It's nice to have the ability to find good rides and be in one," Busch said. "... And going with these guys [Furniture Row] in the future is a possibility, and then to have the outside guys knocking on the door and saying, 'Hey, we want you to drive.'

"It's a good confidence booster to say the least."

As Busch evaluates what will be the best place for him moving forward, sources said Furniture Row made an initial offer for Busch to stay on Friday. A decision likely won't be made until after the Sept. 7 regular-season finale at Richmond, when Busch will know if he is in the Chase.

"Our goal is to build, give our teams better products to race every week going into Daytona," Zipadelli said of the 2014 opener. "With four good drivers next year, it gives us that opportunity."

While sources said Childers is headed to SHR to work with Harvick, who is in the final year of his contract with Richard Childress Racing, Zipadelli said, "We would love to make him a part of Stewart-Haas, but we're not there yet."

Childers said he wasn't sure if he would finish the season at MWR with Brian Vickers and the No. 55 team, but he acknowledged to reporters in Bristol on Friday that the plan is to work with Harvick at SHR in 2014.

"Going to SHR and working with Harvick is an opportunity that not many people will ever get," Childers told Performance Racing Network. "I was afraid that if I didn't take it, I would regret it the rest of my life. It's going to be a lot harder road, building a new team and all new equipment. It will challenge me more and more every day."