Even before the conclusion of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, there were rumors Kurt Busch was leaving SHR and the No. 41. Now confirmed, there is still no confirmation on the status of the No. 41 for 2018. Why?
Status of SHR No. 41
At the beginning of December, Chip Ganassi Racing confirmed Kurt Busch would pilot the No. 1 Chevrolet for the 2019 season. Busch’s deal at CGR is a one-year contract and is suspected to be Busch’s final full-time MENCS season.
Nearly a month later, SHR has made no announcement on the status of the No. 41 in terms of drivers, or if the team will even run in 2019.
For a while rumors have put Daniel Suarez behind the wheel of the No. 41 for 2019. But the lack of announcement thus far likely into one of two reasons.
The No. 41 team was started when SHR co-owner Gene Haas hired Kurt Busch in 2013. In a slightly different time for the sport, Haas funded Busch’s ride exclusively that year, through his Haas CNS company. Busch did eventually have Monster Energy sponsor his cars for select dates, but that sponsorship is going with Busch to CGR. It’s also been rumored that Monster Energy will exit the sport after 2019, both as a car sponsor and as the title sponsor.
With the departure of Busch and the cost to run a MENCS team continuing to rise, it’s likely Haas no longer wants to foot the bill exclusively and is trying to secure sponsorship to fund not only the No. 41, but also the No. 14 and No. 10 cars of SHR that likely have sponsorship holes for the 2019 season.
After the retirement of Carl Edwards in 2017, Suarez was tapped to drive the No. 19 ARRIS / Stanley Tools-sponsored Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. But with Furniture Row Racing shut down at the end of the 2018 season, 2017 MENCS champion, Martin Truex, Jr. is moving over to Joe Gibbs Racing, filling that seat. That leaves Suarez without a ride. For months it’s been rumored Suarez will drive the No. 41, but it hasn’t been announced, even after Busch/CGR made their announcement for 2019 plans.
It’s possible the rumors aren’t true, or that the deal with Suarez fell through due to money not aligning, or not enough sponsorship. SHR has Cole Custer waiting in the wings in the Xfinity Series, but it’s been confirmed he will continue for a third season in Xfinity where he has a single win (Texas).
With nothing solid, it’s all up in the air for SHR’s plans for their fourth MENCS entry. Driver and sponsorship have to fall in place. But with SHR joining Ford just a few years ago, Ford, as well as SHR are both likely wanting to stay as a four-car team.
We’re just over a month away from the Daytona 500 (Sunday, February 17, 2019), and cars for the race don’t get built overnight. SHR’s plans for the No. 41 are likely to be made clear within the next few weeks — from both a sponsor and driver standpoint.