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Rumours connect Kurt Busch to Stewart-Haas for 2014

"Obviously, there's options out there," said Zipadelli when asked if the team had offered Busch a ride for next season. "We're looking at everything that's there. There is nothing done."

Zipadelli was twice pressed to comment further about whether the team was in discussions with Busch, and he deflected the question back to the matter in hand on both occasions: "Like I said, we've got two big things going on here right now with the #39 having an opportunity to make the Chase and getting Mark Martin over here, get him acclimated with the guys and how we do things and heading to Bristol. We'll take it week by week."

SHR spokesman Mike Arning was similarly vague when addressing the topic. "Stewart-Haas Racing constantly strives to improve itself, and expansion is something that is often discussed,” he said in a team statement. “If the right opportunity presents itself, it's something the team will certainly consider."

The team made clear that if anyone was under consideration for a possible fourth car it was Busch and only Busch and that no other drivers were being considered - not even Newman, who is yet to confirm his own plans for 2014.

One possibility is that rather than a fourth car, SHR might be concerned about just how quickly Tony Stewart will be able to return to full-time Cup competition after breaking his right tibia and fibula in a regional winged sprint car race in Southern Iowa two weeks ago. The team has already stated that Stewart will not be back in the car this year, but there appear to be lingering doubts over whether he will even be race-fit in time for the Daytona 500 in February 2014 let alone all the pre-season testing and development activity.

"We expect a full recovery by Daytona or close to it," was the best Zipedelli could offer at this point. "It's a bad break to the leg, and he needs time to go through the process of healing, rehabilitation, all those things."

However, it's highly unlikely that a short-term stand-in role would satisfy Busch. The 35-year-old originally born and raised in Las Vegas has had a tempestuous Cup career, with an acrimonious split with Roush Fenway at the end of 2005 in order to join Penske Racing, which itself came to an end "by mutual agreement" after a frustrating 2011 season saw him in some public rows with team owner Roger Penske as well as a falling out with respected EPSN pit lane reporter Dr Jerry Punch at the season finale at Homestead-Miami.

That left Busch without a seat for 2012 and had many wondering whether the former Cup champion would ever find his way back to a competitive car in the future, after appearing to have become something of a media liability. He resorted to agreeing to drive for James Finch's appropriately-named Phoenix Racing team and to a stint in the Nationwide Series for his brother Kyle's new team, and immediately started to remind observers of his undoubted driving talent which saw him cherry-picked by Furniture Row Racing to replace Regan Smith in the #78 in 2013.

Busch could well decide to stay put with the team next season: “It's cool to have talks with Furniture Row about what we can do in 2014 and beyond," Busch said.

But getting within reach of being in the Chase, and moreover looking as though he's purged some of those hot-headed demons that had been plaguing him in his final year at Penske, has made Busch once again an appealing prospect for many of the big teams - although a return to the likes of Roush Fenway or Penske is highly unlikely given the circumstances of his departure from both.




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