SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Kyle Busch’s openness about the unresolved nature of his contract status for 2023 has had a ripple effect for other teams in the NASCAR Cup Series garage. The two-time Cup champ admitted he’s shopped his services to other organizations as the talks for a return to Joe Gibbs Racing have lagged.
When asked about a potential link between Busch and Stewart-Haas Racing for next season, SHR senior statesman Kevin Harvick didn’t hold back.
“I’d hire Kyle Busch today,” Harvick said, “because he’d have a great impact on the performance of our team, and just the urgency to do some things better.”
Busch shed new light on the stalled negotiations in candid comments Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, saying that “obviously, it’s a mess right now.” Busch said that he was willing to re-up with JGR for a salary under his current value on the free-agent market.
SHR currently fields Fords for Harvick, Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe and Cole Custer in the Cup Series, and Almirola has announced his intent — for now — to retire at season’s end. Among those four, only Briscoe has won this year. Harvick sits on the postseason bubble, but is the top-ranked SHR driver in the series standings in 10th, outpointing Almirola (13th), Briscoe (16th) and Custer (26th).
Harvick would not say whether SHR was a player in the Kyle Busch derby, saying only that he had not been contacted by Stewart-Haas management about Busch. But he spoke glowingly about Busch’s prospects and skill.
“There’s no way that Kyle Busch doesn’t have a lot of options,” Harvick said. “So, you know, I know there’s a lot of things that go on around Kyle. But in the end, Kyle is still one of the best that’s ever come through this garage. So there’s a lot of teams out there that can say that they’ve probably never had one of those types of drivers. You can literally rebuild a whole organization, if somebody took the chance that hasn’t had one of those types of drivers. With the right circumstances, you can rebuild a whole organization just off of his pure talent.”
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Harvick has had on-track differences with Busch in the past, most notably in the 2011 season when their rivalry peaked at Darlington Raceway. But with those differences long gone, Harvick said the possibility of Busch as a teammate would raise the performance bar.
“I get along great with Kyle,” Harvick said. “We’re gonna race each other and be mad at each other, but I have a good relationship with Kyle, but I can tell you that having a teammate like Kyle makes my car run faster. Because when you have all the cars running fast, they all run faster, quicker. So, I’m 100% open to having Kyle as a teammate. I think that particular instance in itself is something that I feel … I don’t even know, I have not heard one thing about it from my organization. So I don’t even know what car it’s for, what car it’s not for. I don’t even know what the conversations would be for.”