Kurt Busch confirms move to Stewart-Haas (UPDATED)

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Furniture Row Racing driver Kurt Busch has confirmed that he will move to Stewart-Haas Racing next year – which will create a four-car operation that features himself, team co-owner Tony Stewart, fellow newcomer Kevin Harvick, and Danica Patrick.

Jim Utter of The Charlotte Observer reports that an official announcement from SHR will be made tomorrow afternoon, and that sources say the team is seeking to claim the No. 00 for Busch.

“This is the kind of situation every driver wants to be in and I’m grateful to [SHR co-owner] Gene Haas and Haas Automation for providing me this opportunity,” Busch told Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press.

“Gene wants to win, and wants me to go out there and perform to the best of my abilities.”

Talk of Busch making a possible jump to Stewart-Haas had been almost constant since word broke out after the recent race at Michigan that the team had offered him a contract.

Now, after two years of competing with smaller operations on the Sprint Cup circuit following his release from Penske Racing at the end of 2011, it appears that Busch has earned another opportunity to race as part of a bigger squad with more resources.

He has been in the thick of the Chase battle this season with the single-car FRR team, and currently sits 12th in the championship, six points out of the Top-10 cutoff point with two “regular season” races remaining.

Last Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Busch indicated that while he was blocking outside distractions in order to focus on getting himself and FRR into the Chase, he was also pleased with having as much interest from other teams as he’s gotten this Silly Season.

“…To have the outside guys knocking on the door going, ‘Hey we want you to drive,’ – it’s a good confidence booster, to say the least,” said Busch, who finished 31st in Saturday’s Cup race following wheel hub issues.

FRR general manager Joe Garone said in a statement that the team made Busch an offer last week to stay with them “in 2014 and beyond,” but that they respected his ultimate decision.

“His driving skill and being a dedicated team player will always be appreciated at Furniture Row Racing,” Garone continued. “But for right now, the main focus for Kurt and the team is to qualify for the Chase and contend for the 2013 Sprint Cup Series championship.”

Busch’s move to SHR comes just days after Michael Waltrip Racing crew chief Rodney Childers announced that he too would join the team as Harvick’s next crew chief. On that note, USA Today’s Jeff Gluck is now reporting that Childers has been given an early release from MWR.

Power, Newgarden, Dixon fastest in first of 2 IndyCar practices today at Barber Motorsports Park

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Will Power was fastest in Friday’s first of two IndyCar practice sessions at Barber Motorsports Park.

Power covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in 1:07.5987 minutes at 122.488 mph in the 45-minute practice session.

Even though he spun off the course during his session, Phoenix winner Josef Newgarden still managed to be second-fastest (121.919 mph at 1:07.9141 minutes), followed by Scott Dixon (121.296 mph/1:082627), Max Chilton (121.251 mph/1:08.2882) and Ed Jones (121.215 mph/1:09.5692).

 

Sixth through 10th were Simon Pagenaud (121.208 mph/1:08.3122), Jordan King (121.113 mph/1:083661), Graham Rahal (121.059 mph/1:08.3964), St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais (121.029 mph/1:08.4131) and rookie Zach Veach (121.014 mph/1:08.4216).

Here’s the full speed chart:

Incidents:

* Early in the session, Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi ran off the track and into the grass, striking a small sign, but was able to get back on-track. However, Rossi was only able to complete 10 laps, relegating him to 20th-fastest in the 23-car field.

* Moments later, it appeared the rear brakes locked up on Newgarden heading into Turn 5, spinning him into the gravel trap. He was able to get going and returned to the pits for service and was back on-track with less than four minutes remaining in the session.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The second practice session of the day will begin at 3:50 p.m. ET. A third practice will take part Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET. The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

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