- Marty Smith, NASCAR
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Kurt Busch has spent nearly two years trying to repair his reputation and public image following a late 2011 dismissal from Penske Racing in hopes he might attract an opportunity from a marquee Sprint Cup Series team and earn another chance in an elite ride.
That day has come.
Stewart Haas Racing has submitted a formal offer to Busch to drive a fourth Sprint Cup entry beginning in 2014, multiple NASCAR sources have confirmed to ESPN.com. The proposed deal would team Busch with team owner Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick in the SHR stable.
Asked for confirmation Sunday, SHR spokesman Mike Arning submitted the following statement via email:
"Stewart-Haas Racing constantly strives to improve itself, and expansion is something that is often discussed. If the right opportunity presents itself, it's something the team will certainly consider."
Busch was unavailable for comment Sunday night.
Following his dismissal from Penske, the major concern with Busch was corporate sponsorship support, which is paramount. That's no issue for SHR co-owner Gene Haas, who owns Haas Automation, one of the world's premiere CNC machining businesses.
Sources said Haas/CNC would sponsor Busch's car, should he choose to sign with SHR.
Busch has performed quite well this season in the No. 78 Chevrolet from Furniture Row Racing, but team sources say FRR has yet to offer him a contract extension.
One thing Busch's team says he truly prides himself on is the us-against-the-world mentality of a smaller, single-car team. He has that with Furniture Row, despite its alliance with Richard Childress Racing. There is nothing small-team about Stewart Haas, which has an alliance with Hendrick Motorsports that supplies chassis, engines and some information.
Busch finished third in the Pure Michigan 400 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, and stands ninth in the Sprint Cup championship standings with 13 races remaining in the 2013 season.
Just last month, Stewart said the SHR organization was not ready to expand to four teams, but sources with knowledge of the decision to offer Busch a ride said that decision came together quickly.
Tony Stewart may be resting at home after breaking his right leg in two places Aug. 5 in a sprint car accident, but Stewart-Haas racing competition director doesn't make it sound like Stewart's doing it comfortably.