Stewart-Haas Racing

Daytona 500 champ Kurt Busch confident he’ll be back with Stewart-Haas Racing next year

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Defending Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch says he believes Stewart-Haas Racing will pick up the option on his contract for next season although that has yet to be done.

There are some questions about Busch’s status because sponsor Monster Energy has not announced if it will be back on the No. 41 Ford next season.

“I don’t have any worries,’’ Busch said Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. “I know that I deliver for the team. Our performance level is one that shouldn’t be in question, winning the Daytona 500 is special, but performing week in and week out, the deliverables that I bring sponsorship-wise that comes into play.

“I know that they’re working with NASCAR, Monster Energy is trying to sort out issues with NASCAR … so there are a lot of moving parts, but I don’t feel any fear whatsoever. I actually feel very confident in the sponsorship that I bring, Ford Performance’s involvement with Stewart-Haas and how I’ve blended in with this team. I feel great.’’

Busch said he’s awaiting to hear from the team about if they will pick up his option but said “I feel like they will … I feel very confident in how things will come together.’’

Busch has eight top-10 finishes in 16 starts this season. He has led six laps this season. He led only the last lap in the Daytona 500, taking the lead when Kyle Larson ran out of fuel.

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Stewart-Haas Racing enjoys best race since winning Daytona 500

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It’s hard to believe, but Stewart-Haas Racing went winless between the first and 16th NASCAR Cup races of the year.

The team co-owned by Tony Stewart and Gene Haas bookended the first half of the season by winning the Daytona 500 and Sunday’s race at Sonoma Raceway.

Though the day was highlighted by Kevin Harvick winning at Sonoma for the first time, it was improved upon by Clint Bowyer finishing second in a car that looked like a diecast that had been manhandled by a 3-year-old.

It was just the third time SHR cars had finished 1-2 in a Cup race.

For Stewart, a year removed from his final Cup win at the same track, it made for an “awesome day” in the middle of a tough year that started with Kurt Busch‘s Daytona 500 triumph.

“I think the important thing is with the way our series is laid down, having two of the drivers get their wins already at this point of the year and solidly in the Chase, that’s a very important deal for our company, especially from the sponsorship side,” Stewart said. “Got great partners, obviously, and to get Mobil 1 in Victory Lane this weekend was great. That’s big, and our first year with Ford now and we’ve won two races already this season, so I think that’s a really solid effort and shows how good a partnership we have with Ford right now.”

Though there’s been bumps in the team’s transition from Chevy to Ford this season, the team has had off-track issues finding sponsors for its four-car team and legal problems with existing sponsor, Nature’s Bakery. A four-month legal battle resulted in the company sponsoring Danica Patrick and Clint Bowyer in two races each later this year.

Bowyer has had Haas-owned companies as his primary sponsor in 12 of 16 races. Busch has had them as a co-primary sponsor in 15 of 16 races.

“For two of the four teams right now, they can start worrying about what to do to get ready for the (playoffs) and having the ability to try different things to prepare for that,” Stewart said of the next 10 races before the playoffs start. “That’s a really important thing for our company right now, and I think we all expected that Kevin would have got it sooner than this, but there’s just been some bad luck, some different venues that he’s been really, really strong at that we just had some weird and bad luck that have crept in to his program.”

Entering Sonoma, Harvick had five top fives, with his best result a runner-up finish at Pocono. He still has three stage wins, tying him for second most with Kyle Larson.

Bowyer left the road course with his second runner-up finish of the year and his third top five, his most since 2014. His rebound comes while he works with crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, who was paired with Stewart in his final year of competition.

“Clint and Buga, to be having the season they’ve had as a fresh driver and crew chief combination, I think they’ve had a really good start to their season, as well,” Stewart said. “I think there’s a lot of positive things in the company, and the results haven’t obviously always shown that, but at the same time, being able to sit on the pit box and see it a lot more clearly from the pit box than I could from my own car last year, I think there’s a lot of things that we’re excited about.”

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Sonoma Raceway central to launching Kurt Busch’s NASCAR career

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Kurt Busch has one NASCAR Cup Series win at Sonoma Raceway, in 2011 when he drove the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske.

But if it weren’t for a win on the road course in a different series in 1999, the native of Las Vegas might not have gotten the chance to take a crack at NASCAR’s top series, where he won the 2004 Cup title and eventually the Daytona 500.

Busch first drove at Sonoma in 1998 as a 19-year-old in the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour. He qualified 19th and went on to finish third.

A year later, on the way to the Southwest Tour championship, Busch returned to Sonoma and won after qualifying third and leading 31 of 64 laps.

“That was my first win in a stock car at a road course,” Busch said in a team release. “I’ve always believed that Saturday race was the most important stage to stand on because there wasn’t a Truck Series race or an Xfinity Series race. Back in the day, the Southwest Tour race was the support race, and my race was live on ESPN. I’ve always thought Sonoma helped springboard me into the spotlight, and I’m very thankful for that chance.”

If there actually was a springboard, it would say “property of Jack Roush.”

The owner of Roush Fenway Racing witnessed Busch’s 1999 Sonoma win. Busch then went on to win six races and the championship. All of that resulted in Busch receiving an invitation to try out for Roush’s Camping World Truck Series team in an event nicknamed “The Gong Show.”

Busch won the event and a spot with Roush. In 2000, Busch competed in his rookie season in the Truck Series, winning four races in 24 starts and finishing second in the standings. The next year, Busch was starting full-time in Roush’s No. 97 Ford in the Cup Series.

Sixteen years later, Busch is looking for his follow-up to winning the Daytona 500, but he’s also looking for just his second road course victory of his Cup career. He’s never won at Watkins Glen International.

Busch enters this weekend’s race at Sonoma with an average finish of 8.9 at the road course and seven top fives in 16 starts. The most recent was in 2015, when came in second to his brother, Kyle Busch.

“We could’ve won this race two years ago and I finished second to my little brother Kyle in the first Busch one-two finish,” Busch said. “Last year we just burned the rear tires off of the car. We just have to get a hang of the tires that are constantly changing to get our Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford where we want it to be.”

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Tony Stewart slams NASCAR for final debris yellow that ‘ruined’ race for many

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After keeping a mostly low profile during his first season as a retired Cup driver, Tony Stewart took a shot at NASCAR officiating Sunday.

The three-time series champion was unhappy with a debris yellow on Lap 181 of 200 that changed the complexion of the 400-mile race at Michigan International Speedway. The race’s second debris caution helped spawn two more yellow flags that involved three Stewart-Haas Racing drivers in crashes shortly after restarts.

Clint Bowyer, who took over the No. 14 Ford from Stewart this season, slapped the wall on a Lap 187 restart, setting up a Lap 191 restart. Ryan Blaney made contact with SHR’s Kevin Harvick on the backstretch when the race went green, triggering a multi-car pileup that sent Danica Patrick’s No. 10 Ford hard into the inside wall.

Stewart, who was watching the race atop Bowyer’s pit box, expressed his displeasure with a tweet about an hour after the checkered flag.

Debris cautions have been on the decline this season with the advent of stage racing.

Sunday’s final debris yellow at Michigan also was curious because it mysteriously took so long to remove the debris — the five-lap caution was longer than the four laps needed to clear the track during the final yellow for the five-car crash.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. also was displeased by the debris yellow.

“I just wish, with the stages, I don’t know why they’ve got to throw so many damn debris yellows,” Earnhardt said on his postrace Periscope session. “The purpose of having stages was really because the networks want more cautions, more restarts because people tune in when we have a caution. They tune in a for a restart. That’s the whole reason why we have the stages to try to create a little more drama, so I don’t know why we keep throwing the damn debris yellows and stuff.’’

Stewart later added a few more thoughts on the matter and his opinionated style.

Dustin Long contributed to this report

 

Stewart-Haas Racing, Nature’s Bakery reach settlement that includes sponsorship

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Stewart-Haas Racing announced Friday that it has reached an agreement with Nature’s Bakery that will include the company serving as a sponsor for four Cup races split between Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick.

Those four races will be announced at a later date.

As part of the agreement, all lawsuits between Stewart-Haas Racing and Nature’s Bakery have been dropped.

Stewart-Haas Racing filed a $31 million breach of contract lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery on Feb. 3. Nature’s Bakery had two years remaining on a three-year contract to sponsor Danica Patrick’s team when the company sent the team a notice of termination on Jan. 19 . Nature’s Bakery was to have paid $15,212,000 each season to sponsor the team.

Nature’s Bakery filed a counterclaim Feb. 25 stating it did not see the return it was led to believe in sponsoring Patrick’s team.

“It’s gratifying to see a difficult situation get resolved in a professional manner that suits all parties,” said Brett Frood, president, Stewart-Haas Racing. “Together, we worked diligently to find an equitable solution to our collective challenges.”

“I am a longtime motorsports fan and, particularly, a fan of NASCAR,” said Dave Marson, founder of Nature’s Bakery. “Our partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing began with direct, open conversations and that foundation allowed us to reach this agreement.”

Other parts of the agreement were not revealed.

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