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Gene Haas makes a big gamble: can he make a four-car team work? And what does Tony Stewart really think about this Kurt Busch deal?

Gene Haas makes a big gamble: can he make a four-car team work? And what does Tony Stewart really think about this Kurt Busch deal?

Gene Haas: back in the saddle again (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Things are breaking fast in the stock car garage:
   -- Kurt Busch will indeed become teammate with Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick, a push by Gene Haas that has caught everyone by surprise. The expansion to a fourth team, Haas concedes, "has been met with a little resistance."
    -- Chip Ganassi is set to announce Juan Pablo Montoya's replace on his Cup team, and there is intense speculation he will bring up newcomer Kyle Larson.
   -- And ABC/ESPN reports a big jump in TV viewers for Saturday night's Bristol 500..even though seven large markets passed on televising the race in favor of carry NFL pre-season games.

   As a multi-millionaire businessman, Gene Haas, who makes his real money in the CNC machine world, isn't used to having other people dominate things.
   But with Tony Stewart, well, he was willing to let Smoke take the point when Chevy execs engineered a deal five years ago that made Stewart a 50-50 partner with Haas, with Rick Hendrick engineering.
   Up to a point.
   During the Brickyard 400 weekend last month, Haas and Kurt Busch had a chance to chat, during a Chevrolet business dinner for all the NASCAR guys. And after that dinner, Haas decided to make a rather bold move -- offering Busch a full-time Sprint Cup ride next season.
  That deal was finally wrapped up Monday.
  And Tuesday Haas and Busch and Greg Zipadelli, the competition boss for the soon-to-be four-car team, all finally explained the whirlwind of events.
  When Haas, at Indy, found out that Busch still didn't have a deal for 2014 with Barney Visser, and that Visser apparently was still negotiating for a manufacturers deal for next year, Haas decided to make the big leap.
   Then, just as the wheeling and dealing was getting hot, Stewart crashed hard August 5th, and was sidelined with his serious medical issues, just as Haas was trying to put things together.
   "I didn't have really a chance to talk to Tony about it at all since he wasn't really talking to anybody," Haas said. "So I kind of did this on my own...probably overstepped my authority a tick.
   "I'm not used to having too many authorities to work with.
   "When I finally did talk to him, he was saying 'Maybe we should wait a little while.'
   "I think he actually said 'You need to wait a while.'
    "But I said I've kind of made an offer to Kurt; I don't know if he's going to take it or not, and if he takes it, I'm not backing down.
    "About a week later, Tony said 'Okay, all right.'
     "I did realize that Tony might be a little bit upset about it.  He was -- he was a little upset.
     "At first he said 'Oh, wow! We can't really do this because this is going to be too much of a load on the team.  We're not prepared for it.  We don't have the space.'
    "But I wanted to do something.  I stepped up and said I would fund it.
    "This was just an opportunity.  I have the ability to react quick; I reacted quick.
    "Since it wasn't Tony's idea, he was taken aback a little bit by it.  But I think he saw it wasn't a bad idea.  In retrospect it looks like it's going to be a great idea.  If we don't win any races next year, hey, I'm going to look like an idiot.
    "But I take gambles: I made a decision, and I think I'm going to be proven right.  I think we're going to win a lot more races than anybody ever thought possible."



   New teammates: Tony Stewart (L) and Kurt Busch (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
   ABC covered Bristol, and it drew an average of 6.3 million people watching. That's biggest TV audience for that race since ESPN and ABC returned to live NASCAR coverage in 2007.
   The viewership average of 6,322,082 was up from the average of 5,905,051 from last year. The telecast earned a 3.9 U.S. household rating, up from a 3.7 for last year’s race.
   Greenville, S.C., was the nation’s highest-rated market, with a 94, followed by Knoxville, Tenn., and Greensboro, N.C., at 8.9. Charlotte, N.C., was fourth with an 8.7 rating with Richmond, Va., fifth at 8.2. Rounding out the top 10 were Norfolk, Va., 7.3; Indianapolis and Birmingham, Ala., at 6.3; Raleigh-Durham, N.C., at 6.2 and Orlando, Fla., at 6.1.

  ABC scores big with Saturday night's Bristol 500 (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Busch himself, on the comeback trail the past year and a half since the ragged split with Roger Penske, is riding the wave. He's changed his outlook on life in this sport, and the change has been dramatic.
    Picking a car number for his new ride?
   "Put 360 on the door," Busch says. "Because you've come full circle.
    "Now 35, I find myself in a great position with stability in the sport...knowing what I've done wrong, knowing what I've done right.
   "The opportunity is about people.  That's what makes this so important -- that I've neglected in the past -- understanding the people. Knowing that that makes the difference if you're going to victory lane or not."
   For the next two weeks, though, Busch will have his hands full recovering from Saturday night's broken wheel hub at Bristol and trying to make the playoffs, with runs at Atlanta and Richmond. It won't be easy.
   "If we can have two good weeks, we'll make the chase," Busch says.
   "Nothing that happened Saturday was the straw that broke the camel's back.  We're not going to look at one circumstance...
    "(But) we have to be perfect the next two weeks to make the chase."

   Kurt Busch (R) and crew chief Todd Berrier, who is now looking for a new driver for 2014 for team owner Barney Visser (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Busch's handling of Saturday's disappointment is one more example of the change in his attitude.
   The past 18 months, he says, "taught me a lot about myself, on how to understand disappointment better.
   "It's also taught me a lot about how to help with crew members when they stumble or trip -- to be there for them. 
    "I feel I'm in a better place mentally and spiritually. 
    "Barney is a guy that believes things happen for reasons.  He's given me a tremendous amount to go out there and race against the big dogs.  We still have 12 more weeks to do it.
    "It's easy as a 25yearold to say you know everything, that you can do everything by yourself. 
    "That's what I thought that I could do when I moved from Roush Racing to Penske back in 2006. I thought I could wear all the weight on my back. 
    "That was not the case.  That's when you learn it's about the people, team communication, how it filters through all the channels."
    And now....
    "When a guy like Gene Haas wants to make you part of a fourcar, superpower team....
     "That's the journey I've been on over the last 18 months."


   It's nearly September, and suddenly Greg Zipadelli has to crank up a fourth team for 2014 to Tony Stewart and Gene Haas. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Zipadelli says it didn't really register when Haas, four weeks ago, first raised the prospect of expanding to four teams: "I heard it, but I didn't quite grasp it at that time."
   Now, after weighing it out, Zipadelli calls it "a dream come true....an opportunity of a lifetime to have a caliber of a driver like this."
   Building a fourth team will certainly be a challenge, regardless of the money involved. But Zipadelli says he's got plenty of people calling asking for jobs.
   "There's people out there looking for jobs," he says. "The amount of résumés I've gotten the last week since this broke has been unbelievable."
   But first things first. Busch's new team will have to wait for Zipadelli to put finishing touches on Kevin Harvick's new team. Rodney Childers is expected to take the job as Harvick's crew chief.
   Michael Waltrip, Childers' current boss, relieved him of duty as Brian Vickers' crew chief Tuesday, putting Scott Miller, competition director, in charge.

   Haas' decision to hire Busch to a multi-year deal was not only stunning and unexpected but pulled off so quickly. Haas said the project first came to him July 25th, at Indianapolis. Monday August 26th the deal was signed.
   That leaves Barney Visser, Busch's current team owner, working the market. There has been speculation, which Haas has added to, that Toyota was interested in Busch, either in a jump by Visser, or a move by Joe Gibbs.
   Whatever the situation, when Haas saw the opening, he didn't waste time making the move. He called Busch Monday after the Brickyard to make the offer.   
   "We all see how Kurt has done on the track," Haas. "He's done an amazing job taking a car that is a singlecar team.  They've done a remarkable job to compete in the top10.
   "I know Kurt's résumé as well as anybody.  I like his attitude.  He's passionate about what he does.  He likes to win.  He's not afraid to get in people's faces.   
   "I think there's a good match there. 
   "He's a passionate person...and it takes a lot of passion to win these races.
    "That he runs into his friends at 200 mph once in a while, has a few tough words with that, they all do that. I don't have any problems with that."

 So Ryan Newman didn't make the cut? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
   So one of the big stories here is Haas' sudden leap to the fore, after playing in Stewart's shadow for the past several years since teaming.
   "I have to admit Tony Stewart is somewhat of an overwhelming personality," Haas says dryly. "When he came in here, this team had no credibility. 
   "We were a small, struggling team in the back that would have died out and nobody would have noticed."

    So July 12th Stewart announced he couldn't do a fourth team and was thus cutting Ryan Newman loose to find a new team....and less than two weeks later Haas himself is making the move to hire Busch?
    Something might seem strange here.
    "I simply wanted a change, an opportunity to do something different," Haas says.
   "I don't think this says anything negative about Ryan.  He's been a great driver, done a great job. 
   "After five years I just feel I want to take hold of an opportunity that was presented to me.
   "There was an opportunity to have Kurt Busch join us as driver. He's been a favorite of mine. I thought this was a great opportunity...too great to pass up."


   Kurt Busch (L) and Gene Haas: It may make sense, but it did come together pretty darned quick. Did Toyota blink? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Remember RYR

Look for Stewart Haas to go the same way Robert Yates team did in its last seasons. Pretty much a powerful team in shambles. Too many egos. I doubt Hendrick,Gibbs,Penske,and Roush-Fenway are willing to sit still while it happens. Hoping Newman gets the last laugh!

Kurt and SHR

I wonder how Harvick feels about the deal. Will he like working with Kurt? Does he even like Kurt? He has stated his dislike for Kyle on occasion. It wil be interesting to see the Harvick grin when questioned about this situation.

It now looks like there is more to the story of letting Ryan go then all of the complimentary words about him made by Stewart and Haas. Why wouldn't Haas at least offer a partial sponsorship to him to go with the Quicken partial? Inquiring minds want to know.

One thing for sure is that this can be the most volatile team NASCAR has ever had. I think black hats are in order. All four drivers have shown a propensity to allow their emotions to get out of hand. There's a good chance that they will create a show within a show at every race. Could very well ignite the excitement NASCAR needs. What would be really neat would be if they would break their alliance with HMS and create a real rivalry in the sport. The plain vanilla HMS boys vs. the SHR bad boys.

I wonder how Ryan Newman REALLY feels. This

I wonder how Ryan Newman REALLY feels. This partnership can only end badly.

The problem I see with the fallout at SHR w/Ryan

The problem I see with the fallout at SHR w/Ryan Newman is that Newman was made to be the "fall guy". He gave up (or given no choice) to satisfy SHR for Danica Patrick like pit crew/crew chief swaps/personnel changes and "sponsor issues". I have a feeling he's going to RCR as a package deal with Matt Borland. And if that happens, is Jeff Burton the "odd man" out @RCR with Austin Dillon coming on the scene? Wouldn't it be sweet if Bass Pro heads to RCR with outdoors men RC and RN? Talk about payback from losing Budweiser to SHR.

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