The 2017 season started off with a bang for Kurt Busch and ended with question marks involving his future with Stewart-Haas Racing. After getting married in the off-season, Busch started 2017 with confidence. He hoped he could once again reclaim NASCAR’s biggest prize, the Cup Series championship. He also joked that winning the sport’s biggest event would make him consider walking away from the series altogether.
“The Daytona 500, if I won it this year, I might almost pull a Carl Edwards and just walk away,” Busch said. He was referring to his former competitor who announced his retirement from NASCAR just weeks before the 2017 season started.
Kurt Busch pulled off the win in Daytona in February, taking home the largest payday of his career. By winning the mother of all races, he was also the first driver to lock himself into the NASCAR Playoffs. That confidence continued in the days following his monumental triumph.
“To win the Daytona 500 is hard to put into words,” Busch said. “It’s beyond belief. You watch this race as a kid, and you live the experiences with each driver who wins and loses this race. And now, after 16 years of this race going 16 different ways for us, it erases all those memories.”
The following week in Atlanta, the former champion drove his way to a seventh-place result. It certainly looked like Kurt Busch was an early threat to be a contender. Unfortunately, his season began to dive downward and it all started at his home-track in Vegas.
Including there, the old-school racer finished 24th or worse at the next four venues. Including, three races where battery problems plagued the #41 team. It was official, Kurt Busch was brought back down to reality. From there, he dived from second in points down to 19th by the beginning of April. The speedster halted the bad performances with a 10th-place finish at Texas. Now, it looked like Busch would get back on the right track. As a result, the Stewart/Haas pro finished in the top 10 six times over the next 10 races.
“We didn’t make any mistakes. We didn’t have to battle too hard on the handling,” Busch said after the Texas race. “I would say we did well. We know we can do better. I am happy about a top 10.”
Kurt Busch’s consistent season brought him back to Daytona for the mid-summer Coke Zero 400. With good memories of his February victory and growing momentum, the team finally got its hands around the off-season switch from Chevrolet to Ford.
“Once we settled in and learned the balance of our Ford and how things were changing here and there. I think we’ve done great,” Busch said. “You also can’t be too complacent. You have to find new things and put more tools in your toolbox. It all needs to be there to be able to have that advantage at the end of the race.”
Just like his prior hot streak, a crash at Daytona put him right back behind the eightball. He also had and an engine failure the following week at Kentucky. That quick, all the momentum Kurt Busch seemed to have at the early summer venues was obliterated.
All was not lost, the experienced driver rebounded in the late summer by mounting three-straight top-five finishes. Kurt Busch appeared to have his mojo back as the playoffs loomed closer. Unfortunately, overshadowing Busch’s up and down season were multiple reports that he wouldn’t be returning to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018. Also, that his future going forward in the sport was in question.
Stewart-Haas Racing refused to comment on the status of Kurt Busch’s contract. They did issue a tweet saying they expected him to return in 2018. Busch confirmed at Watkins Glen in August that the team hadn’t picked up the option to renew his current contract.
“I feel like there are more options out there,” Busch said. “The also phone didn’t stop ringing all week. I’m looking for the best possible option to race a competitive car that’s got a chance to win races. It’s all about winning poles and compete for a championship. There are different cars that are options for me, and Stewart-Haas is one of them.”
With a little momentum but questions about his future fresh in his head, Kurt Busch entered the NASCAR Playoffs. Once there, he continually struggled to find consistency and speed. The oft-maligned racer finished 19th in the opening race at Chicagoland. To make matters worse, he followed that performance up with a 37th-place at New Hampshire. Ultimately, he was eliminated from the playoffs with a 20th-place result at Dover Speedway.
Even though Kurt Busch’s shot to win a championship were over, he was still wanted to impress potential future employers. to do that, he would have to find some speed and finish out the year strong. Busch would go on to tally a runner-up finish at Kansas. He backed that up with a ninth-place result at Texas. In the end, he finished out his 2017 Monster Energy Cup Series season in 14th.
“My best chance to win races, to win championships is to be at Stewart-Haas Racing,” Busch said. “I’ve talked with other owners and the offers were about the same from other teams. But the offers weren’t the same as far as the level of the car. We’ll see how it all plays out. I’m also not worried about it.”
Busch says he has no deadline to sign a contract. Furthermore, he still has no idea for the following year or finding the right fit for him in 2018. But once Kurt Busch cements his ride, he will again shoot for his second NASCAR title.
Kurt Busch Bio:
Kurt Busch is the 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion. He also competes full-time for Stewart-Haas Racing. Busch won the championship in the very first year of the Playoffs, 2004. He also won the 2017 Daytona 500. Busch has 29 career wins in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The veteran driver has also collected five career wins in the Xfinity Series and four career wins in the Camping World Truck Series. Busch was named the 2000 Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the Truck Series.
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