(Reuters) - Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, who recently declined an offer to remain with Furniture Row Racing, was officially introduced as the fourth driver for Stewart-Haas Racing on Tuesday.
Busch, 35, will link up on a multi-year deal with co-owner Tony Stewart, who has ruled himself out for the rest of the season due to a broken right leg, Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick.
It marks a major expansion for team owners Stewart and Gene Haas, who launched their partnership as a two-car operation in 2009, and a return to the big time for Busch, who has driven for single-car teams since he left Penske Racing at the end of 2011.
“The excitement is just at an all-time high,” Busch said during a news conference at the team’s headquarters in Kannapolis, North Carolina. “To be in this position, it’s amazing to have Gene Haas call you up and say ‘Let’s do this.’
“The opportunity is about people and that’s what makes this so important that I’ve neglected in the past, is it’s the people that make the difference in going to Victory Lane or not.”
The mercurial Busch, who has won 24 Cup races and clinched the Nextel Cup Series in 2004, has had several run-ins with his fellow drivers, officials and others over the years, both verbally and physically.
He was released by Roush Fenway Racing with two races left during the 2005 season after sheriffs in Maricopa, Arizona reported that Busch was verbally abusive after he had been arrested on a traffic stop.
Roush officials said “we’re officially retiring as Kurt Busch’s apologists, effective today” as they sent Busch packing.
The driver went on to score 10 wins for team owner Roger Penske between 2006 and 2011, but the two parted company after a fan’s video of Busch profanely berating a veteran television reporter in the garage went viral after the 2011 season finale.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue