Kurt Busch reportedly on verge of becoming NASCAR free agent

Just as quickly as reports surfaced that Kurt Busch would not be returning to Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018, the NASCAR team disputed them.

“We don’t comment on contract status, but we expect @KurtBusch back in our @MonsterEnergy/@Haas_Automation Ford in ‘18. Just sayin’,” the team posted on its Twitter account.

NBC Sports.com and Motorsport.com were among those who posted stories Tuesday about the Las Vegas driver’s contract option not being picked up.

Insiders say both the reports and the race team’s rebuttal may be true.

If Busch’s contract option is not picked up, it’s possible he could negotiate a new deal with Stewart-Haas before the 2018 season and return to the team.

Stewart-Haas Racing fields four cars in NASCAR’s Cup Series. Drivers Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Busch and Danica Patrick are ranked third, 10th, 14th and 28th, respectively, in season points.

The team has lost sponsors over recent seasons, but Busch has backing from series title sponsor Monster Energy and won this year’s Daytona 500. He recently spoke as if he would be returning to Stewart-Haas.

“I don’t have any worries,’’ Busch said as the second half of the NASCAR season was getting under way. “I know that I deliver for the team. Our performance level is one that shouldn’t be in question. Winning the Daytona 500 is special, but performing week in and week out, the deliverables that I bring sponsorship-wise that comes into play.”

If Monster continues its personal sponsorship of Busch, it could enhance his value on the free-agent market, and also with Stewart-Haas.

“I know that they’re working with NASCAR,” Busch said of Monster Energy, “so there are a lot of moving parts. But I don’t feel any fear whatsoever. I actually feel very confident in the sponsorship that I bring … and how I’ve blended in with this team. I feel great.’’

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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