Kurt Busch has championship hopes in move to SHR

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Kevin Harvick popped in for what he thought was a quick hello with a bedridden Tony Stewart.

Roughly a week after Stewart broke his right leg in a sprint car crash, Harvick was surprised to find his new boss’ bedroom had been turned into an unlikely boardroom. The entire Stewart-Haas organization had gathered to discuss the potential signing of Kurt Busch.

They wanted Harvick’s input on adding a driver who hadn’t exactly endeared himself in the past.

Baggage aside, Harvick knew as well as anyone that Busch was still as good as it gets as a wheelman.

“I was the only guy who had ever worked with him,” Harvick said. “I understood that in my opinion he’s going to be good for the company, from a competition standpoint, to drive the performance of the race cars to be better. And that’s why we are all here: to be fast and win races.”

They were all in on Busch. Former rivals, Busch and Harvick were now the new guys at a suddenly crowded SHR shop.

If Harvick’s arrival, after a career spent driving for Richard Childress Racing, brought euphoria to the shop and a shot in the arm to the fan base, Busch’s arrival was a bit of a curiosity.

Busch was covertly courted by co-owner Gene Haas, the often overlooked “H” in SHR, to round out a dream team of drivers that already included Stewart, a three-time Cup champion, and one of NASCAR’s most popular stars in Danica Patrick.

Busch, Stewart and Harvick have a combined 95 Cup victories, four championships, and Patrick was the first woman to win the Daytona 500 pole.

Harvick filled departed Brickyard 400 winner Ryan Newman’s spot in the lineup, and Haas made the call to add Busch and become a four-car franchise.

Busch’s prodigious talent has never been doubted, with 24 career Cup wins and the 2004 championship etched on his resume.

But his personality has cost him major rides, deep-pocketed sponsors, and turned him into a journeyman driver at only 35.

His 2014 ride with SHR is his fourth team in four seasons, though he revitalized his career and led single-car outfit Furniture Row Racing into a surprising Chase for the Sprint Cup championship berth last season. He finished 10th in the standings and silenced doubters that he’d ever return to a deep-funded organization.

Busch was on pretty good behavior, and says his teams learned, “I wasn’t such a bad guy after all.”

“It’s funny, you work with people and the first thing they tell you was, ‘Wow, I expected worse.’ Perception is reality,” Busch said. “I had to work on that. I couldn’t continue to fight it. I was about producing results on the race track and putting on a good show.”

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