DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – Anyone can relate to haggling over the price of a showroom car, but there was more than just a new set of shiny wheels at stake for Kurt Busch.
Trying to secure the rights to his winning Ford in the 59th Daytona 500 was one of the snags in his contract talks with Stewart-Haas Racing last year.
“That was one my No. 1 objectives,” Busch said during a taping last month of the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “They’re like, ‘No we’re going to keep it.’ Well, can I have visitation rights with it? Literally, that was a sticking point for a while, but we worked it all out.”
It didn’t work out exactly as planned for the 2004 series champion, who told reporters this past weekend that his No. 41 would remain with the team after it’s rolled out of a yearlong residency Monday at Daytona International Speedway.
“The team is the one that has the rights to the car,” Busch said. “It will be pushed into the front lobby area of Stewart-Haas and go right along with (Kevin) Harvick and (Tony) Stewart’s championship cars. It is special to have a car like that. We will see. Hopefully we will push another one in there next Monday.”
Busch’s re-signing of a one-year deal with Stewart-Haas Racing was announced in December, four months after the team had declined to pick up its 2018 option on the driver. Despite being an impending free agent, Busch said he and SHR had a good-faith negotiation that had him confident about returning.
“I think it was like a chess game in a certain way,” Busch said on the podcast. “The team wanted to get things done their way. I wanted to get things done my way, and we just had to give and take. The two sides always agreed we were going to work out, I just had some objectives that I was really firm about.”
A key part of the deal for Busch was staying with Ford, which was the make he drove for his first five seasons in NASCAR’s premier series. The Las Vegas native, who is entering his 18th season in Cup, hinted at having sports car aspirations after NASCAR with Ford, including racing the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“At the end of the day, I was hopeful to have a long-term contract because with Ford I know there’s more on the horizon with the new car that they’re designing right now, and I wanted to be part of that,” he said. “Because over the years, Ford has always felt like family and that’s always felt like home. I still feel there’s more to do at Ford Racing.
“NASCAR is my priority. But Ford is involved in all forms of different motorsports, and we’ll see how it all shakes out.”
During the podcast, Busch also discussed:
–His memories of winning Daytona 500 and the postrace celebration with Rob Gronkowski;
–His days of sneaking into short tracks in the Southwest Tour Series;
–Handling statistical analytics for his wife’s polo team;
–Reflecting on being the last active driver to have raced against Dale Earnhardt in the Daytona 500 (his final start in 2001).
The new episode will be available early Wednesday a.m. Subscribe to the NASCAR on NBC Podcast wherever you get your podcasts to receive free downloads automatically.