A tremendous talent behind the wheel, Busch’s terrible temper led to what was thought to be a career-killing moment in 2011 when he was fired by Penske Racing. It was Furniture Row that rescued him from the back of the pack with six races remaining last season and gave him a chance to be competitive again.
The single-car team based in Denver, far away from the NASCAR hub in North Carolina, didn’t ask much of Busch. Team owner Barney Visser didn’t need his driver to wine and dine a bunch of clients, or be on his best behavior at all times. All he wanted was a wheel man focused on getting the No. 78 to Victory Lane.
Since Busch came on board, the car has six top-five finishes, 14 top-10s, 368 laps led and has qualified on the front row seven times. The team is even in contention for a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, though Saturday night’s 31st-place finish dropped Busch to 12th in the standings with two races remaining to set the field.
But Busch already has one foot out the door. He said Monday he’s accepted Haas‘ offer to join Stewart-Haas Racing next season, and will be officially introduced as the driver of a new fourth entry sponsored out of Haas‘ pocket on Tuesday.
“I think the strength of what we bring isn’t in an offer,” general manager Joe Garone told AP before Saturday night’s race. “It’s what we deliver. Creating an environment where all the focus is on Kurt Busch, 100 percent on him. That’s a big thing. Not a lot of teams can deliver that. A single car team that runs up front _ that’s us. I think that’s real valuable. I think that makes a difference and I think that’s career changing.”
James Finch still gave him a ride last season, but his Phoenix Racing was short on cash all season and Finch could never bring in enough corporate backing to make the relationship sustainable.
Visser, the owner of Furniture Row, decided to take the chance. He owns his company and while he’d like to have sponsors, he can operate without them. His interest came at the same time SHR was considering a deal with Busch, but couldn’t make the numbers work _ in part because of sponsorship and because Haas wasn’t making the financial commitment he’s doing today.
As Garone saw it, it was the perfect time for the pairing.
“There was a time when there was a lot of turmoil and a lot of things going on and distractions and things that made you question whether you even want to be in the sport and what we tried to do coming into this was to take him out of that, and get him away from the things that caused distractions and aggravations,” Garone said. “One of the things that comes to mind is sponsorship commitments and off-track activities, we really do not require a whole lot. Our entire focus is on driving the car and building the relationships with the team and letting him get to a place where he’s comfortable with that, and letting him build strength back within himself.