Kurt Busch signs with Stewart-Haas Racing for 2014

USA TODAY Sports

Kurt Busch has signed a contract to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.

Kurt Busch has signed a multi-year contract to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing beginning in 2014.

The 2004 Cup champion was the most coveted driver on the free agent market and had discussions with Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Richard Childress Racing, but the opportunity to join the organization co-owned by Tony Stewart was too much to pass up.

FoxSports.com and ESPN.com first reported the news Monday.

Busch is in his first full season driving for Furniture Row Racing, a single-car team based in Denver. He drove most of last year for Phoenix Racing after a tumultuous exit from Penske Racing at the end of the 2011 season.

Furniture Row general manager Joe Garone confirmed Busch's departure in statement released Monday afternoon:

"It was always our intention to extend Kurt's contract with Furniture Row Racing. We made him an offer last week to continue as the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet in 2014 and beyond. Though he did not accept our offer, we respect his decision and wish him future success. His driving skill and being a dedicated team player will always be appreciated at Furniture Row Racing. 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."

With two regular season races remaining Busch is ranked 12th in the standings, six points behind 10th-place Joey Logano. In comments made to ESPN.com, Busch said his impending departure will not be a distraction as he competes for a spot in NASCAR's Chase.

"Come Wednesday, that's all I'm going to think about," Busch told ESPN.com.

At SHR, Busch will join Stewart, Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick to form a four-car team.

A month ago, Stewart said SHR was not ready to expand and that is why the team was releasing Ryan Newman to make way for Kevin Harvick. But SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli explained this past weekend at Bristol that it was co-owner Gene Haas who initiated talks to sign Busch.

"(Haas) has always liked Kurt," Zipadelli said. "We had talked about Kurt last year of putting him in the No. 39 (Newman's car) and things just didn't work out. It's really nothing that Ryan did wrong. I mean he's done a great job, he's a good guy, heck of a driver.

"This just kind of got sprung on us 14 days ago or less. It's kind of all come down. Gene just showed some interest and having the ability to put something together."

SHR has scheduled a news conference for 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon to officially announce Busch's hire.

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