<
>

Kurt Busch confirms SHR does not pick up option for '18

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Kurt Busch didn't appear stressed Saturday morning talking about his contract status -- he is now a free agent and able to look for 2018 -- and whether he would return to Stewart-Haas Racing next season.

The 2004 NASCAR Cup champion has driven for SHR since 2014, but sponsor Monster Energy has not announced a decision on whether it would return to SHR and Busch.

Busch, who turned 39 on Friday, won the 2017 Daytona 500 for his 29th career NASCAR Cup victory and sits 14th in the standings.

"They chose not to pick up my option, but I see it as good options for me," Busch said Saturday before practice at Watkins Glen. "I'm not too worried about it. I feel like there's more options out there than what exist here.

"The phone didn't stop ringing all week and not just because it was my birthday."

While SHR tweeted earlier this week that it expected Busch to return, Busch appears ready to move on if he gets a better or more solid offer. It likely will depend on sponsorship. Busch's former home, Furniture Row Racing, is among those looking for funding to field a car next year, as are Hendrick Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing.

"I'm looking for the best possible options to race a competitive car that has got a chance to win races, win poles and compete for a championship," Busch said. "There are different cars that are options for me, and Stewart-Haas is one of them."

SHR made the transition this year to Ford, and that might have contributed to the organization not being as dominant as in the past. Busch and Kevin Harvick have wins to qualify for the playoffs. Clint Bowyer is 10th in the standings while Danica Patrick is 28th. Harvick has sponsorship for next season and the team already is committed to Bowyer. Patrick's status remains in limbo pending sponsorship.

"The disruption of them not picking up my option [is] it gets the crew guys all flustered [and] Ford is very surprised by it," Busch said. "We've just got to stay focused and stay sharp. There's no reason to not think I couldn't be back here. It's a matter of making it all work out. I'm not too worried about it."

Busch is in his 17th NASCAR Cup season.

"There's no stress whatsoever," Busch said. "There's plenty of time for all different options to unfold. ... There are a couple of offers already so we'll see how things play out."