Haas admitted Tuesday he went rogue in courting Kurt Busch for a non-existent fourth team at Stewart-Haas Racing while Stewart was incapacitated with a broken leg earlier this month. When he finally brought his business partner up to speed on his expansion plans, Stewart balked.
But Haas forged ahead anyway with a multi-year offer to Busch, who was introduced Tuesday as the newest driver at SHR, where officials are now scrambling to make room at an organization that will double from two cars in 2012 to four next season.
Haas was laughing during two different recollections Tuesday of how he sidestepped Stewart during the lightning-fast courtship of Busch, which apparently began at a General Motors dinner in Indianapolis before the Brickyard in late July and ended last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway with Busch accepting Haas‘ offer.
Haas insisted getting his name on a car was his primary motivation.
“It was an opportunity for Haas Automation to be a primary sponsor. This is going to be my shot at being a primary sponsor, going to the Daytona 500, the Brickyard as the primary sponsor,” he said. “Haas Automation has never been in the winner’s circle, and I’m sure that’s going to change next year. So that’s my primary reason for basically pushing this expansion. It’s been met with a little bit of resistance.”
Stewart, who broke his leg in two places in an Aug. 5 sprint car crash, was not present for the hour-long news conference to introduce Busch. But in a statement issued by the team, he praised Busch’s talent and seemed neutral in tone on expansion.
“When Gene Haas laid out his plans for what he wanted to do in regard to this race team’s future, which included bringing Kurt on board in a fourth car, it was impressive,” Stewart said. “You can’t stand still in this business. You have to constantly improve. Gene’s investment in this race team ensures the success of Stewart-Haas Racing for many years to come.”
SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli, who joked at one point he’s built a rubber room at the shop to deal with the 2014 driver lineup of Stewart, Busch, Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick, tried to calm any misconception of a rift between co-owners by clarifying Stewart’s position on expansion.