One of the biggest news stories coming out of last weekend's race at Michigan International Speedway was the third place finish for Kurt Busch, the latest in a string of strong performances from the 2005 NASCAR Cup champion which has seem him propel the #78 Furniture Row Racing car into unlikely Chase contention.
Busch is now in ninth place in the standings with just three races remaining before the Chase cut-off after Richmond next month. Making the Chase with a relatively low-profile one-car shoestring operation would be a huge achievement for Busch, who is currently in front of some big names in the sport including Roush Fenway Racing's Greg Biffle as well as Hendrick Motorsport's Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon.
Not surprisingly, the rumours have already started about where Busch might head next season after his current one-year deal with Furniture Row Racing expires. Busch himself confirmed this weekend that he's already received multiple approaches from teams in the NASCAR paddock for his services in 2014.
"I've received offers from multiple teams," Busch told ESPN.com
on Monday. "This isn't a decision I'm taking lightly. I'm looking at what teams have planned long term and want to be in a place where my opinion and input is valued.
"I like to be involved in the process like I have been here at Furniture Row," Busch added when asked what he was looking for in prospective 2014 race deals. "At the same time, I was hoping to not have this distraction while working with my guys to get us in the Chase."
reported on Sunday that one of the offers in question was from Stewart-Haas Racing, although Busch himself would neither confirm nor deny this speculation. An approach from SHR would certainly be a surprise given that the team had appeared to rule out any possibility of running a fourth car in the near future, after announcing last month that current driver Ryan Newman would be let go at the end of the season in order to make way for the arrival of Kevin Harvick in the squad alongside Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick.
Ironically, Newman is now the team's best chance to get into Chase contention this season. He's currently in 15th place in the standings, with Patrick in 27th and Stewart sidelined for the rest of the year because of his broken leg. Meanwhile SHR is yet to find a considerable proportion of the necessary sponsorship funding for Harvick's full 36-race season next year, and has said that there was no realistic chance at finding the money to run a fourth team for Newman.
“I truly wish we were able to facilitate four teams at this time,” Stewart had lamented when Newman's exit from the team was announced. “We are just not able to do that. Down the road I'm sure if that becomes a possibility that he will most definitely will be on the list to fill the fourth seat again."
But speaking with the media on Monday to announce the appointment of Cup veteran Mark Martin as Stewart's replacement for the rest of 2013, SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli appeared to confirm that the team was considering the feasibility of adding Busch to its line-up next season.