Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch will become the latest NASCAR star on the free agent market.
Stewart-Haas Racing informed the No. 41 Ford driver that it wouldn’t be picking up his option for next season, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told NBC Sports. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
The team had until midnight today to pick up the option after which Busch would be permitted to negotiate with other teams about a ride for 2018. It also is possible Busch still could return to Stewart-Haas Racing by signing a new contract.
The team still is awaiting word on the status of Monster, which has been a primary sponsor on Busch’s car the past two seasons. The energy drink company is weighing its future as the title sponsor of NASCAR’s premier series (it must decide by this year whether to pick up a two-year option for 2019-20) and as a team sponsor.
Busch had expressed optimism at Daytona International Speedway that he would return to the team, which he joined in 2014 after a one-season stint with Furniture Row Racing.
“I don’t have any worries,’’ Busch said June 29. “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 joins Matt Kenseth as a former NASCAR Cup Series champion who doesn’t have a confirmed ride for next season.
Stewart-Haas Racing declined comment on the story. The team sent a tweet about Busch’s future.
Saturday will be a busy day at Circuit of the Americas, as all three national series are on the track.
Cup will qualify ahead of the Craftsman Truck and Xfinity Series races.
The forecast Saturday calls for sunny conditions and no chance of rain all day. The high is expected to be 69 degrees during Cup qualifying, 76 degrees at the start of the Truck race and 81 degrees for the start of the Xfinity race.
Zane Smith looks to win his second consecutive Truck race at the road course in Austin, Texas. AJ Allmendinger seeks his second consecutive Xfinity win at COTA.
Saturday, March 25
(All times Eastern)
- 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. — Cup Series
- 10:30 a.m. — Truck Series
- 2 p.m. — Xfinity Series
- 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying (FS1)
- 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (42 laps, 143 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
- 5 p.m. — Xfinity race (46 laps, 156 miles; FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
AJ Allmendinger, who won this race a year ago, will start on the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas.
Allmendinger earned the pole with a lap of 92.173 mph Friday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.
He will be joined on the front row Sammy Smith (91.827 mph).
Ty Gibbs (91.665) will start third. Sheldon Creed (91.652) qualified fourth. Parker Kligerman (91.195) will start fifth.
Cup driver William Byron will start ninth. Byron’s time was disallowed for cutting the esses. Cole Custer, who will start 10th, didn’t make a lap in the final round of qualifying.
Cup driver Aric Almirola (91.269) qualified 13th. Truck Series racer Carson Hocevar (90.669) will start 17th. Alex Labbe (90.476) will start 23rd. He’s filling in for Josh Williams, who is serving a one-race suspension for parking his car at the start/finish line of last weekend’s race at Atlanta.
Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.
Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).
Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.
Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.
Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.
Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.
Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).
Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.
Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.
Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.
Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.