Kurt Busch announces departure from Stewart-Haas and other Silly Season news

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This story has been updated following Tuesday's Chip Ganassi Racing announcement.

Kurt Busch hoped to announce his 2019 plans in Las Vegas. That didn't happen. It happened five days after the NASCAR Awards ceremony.

None of it came by surprise and it started three days after the ceremony when the 2004 Cup champion announced his departure from Stewart-Haas Racing.

Then two days later, Chip Ganassi Racing announced it had hired Busch to replace Jamie McMurray in a one-year deal. Monster Energy -- which sponsored Busch at SHR -- will be one of the primary sponsors.

"I just see more of a concentrated effort in making sure that the cars go to the track and there is that communication that is completely black and white and wide open," Busch said about leaving the four-car SHR operation to the two-car Ganassi stable. "That is what I'm looking forward to the most because sometimes in a four-car program if one car goes through tech, the other one might not necessarily go through the same way and then by the time you get to a fourth car things are very different.

"I just like a challenge with this whole thing of switching and going after a fresh start and having a guy like Kyle Larson who is going to teach me some things about how the new trend of driving style is going."

Busch said he had agreed to make the move in the summer but no announcements were made as he tried to focus on one last championship run at SHR.

Busch replaces McMurray, who still has not said whether he would accept Ganassi's offer to do one final race -- the 2019 Daytona 500 -- for the team. Ganassi said he expects McMurray to accept that offer and an announcement is pending.

McMurray crew chief Matt McCall will remain with the No. 1 car and Busch. Sponsors McDonald's and Cessna will remain with the organization.

The Ganassi announcement is one of many still to come in the weeks leading into 2019.

Among them:

  • Spire Sports + Entertainment, an agency that has worked with sponsors and drivers, confirms it has bought the Furniture Row Racing charter. It will operate a race team with the No. 77. Driver and alliance details are to be determined. Former Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Michael Waltrip Racing executive Ty Norris is Spire president, former Braun Racing executive TJ Puchyr is a co-owner of Spire with agent Jeff Dickerson. Former Braun Racing owner Todd Braun's nephew, Justin Haley, is a Spire client.

  • Daniel Suarez's future. He is still the leader in the clubhouse to replace Busch at SHR.

  • Denny Hamlin's crew chief. It is expected that Joe Gibbs Racing will look in-house to fill that position.

  • The top full-time car besides the Ganassi and SHR cars without an announced driver would be the Go Fas Racing No. 32 car.

There was one driver announcement last week, Matt Tifft signing with Front Row Motorsports, which will continue to operate three cars.

Front Row bought the assets of BK Racing in August and operated it for the final 12 races. It will now rebrand that car, using the No. 36, to field a car for Tifft along with keeping Michael McDowell and David Ragan in the fold.

"This has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, and I can't believe it's finally coming true," Tifft said. "I'm so thankful to Front Row Motorsports for giving me the opportunity to drive the No. 36 next season."

Sponsorship wasn't announced, but Tifft has typically brought at least some sponsorship to his previous rides. He had a solid second half of 2018 driving for Richard Childress Racing in the Xfinity Series, getting six top-10s in the last seven races.

While Hamlin's crew chief has not been announced, a couple of others were during the past week: Danny Stockman will replace Justin Alexander as crew chief for Austin Dillon, and former Hamlin crew chief Mike Wheeler will move to Leavine Family Racing to be crew chief for Matt DiBenedetto.

Stockman won truck and Xfinity titles with Dillon at RCR.

"A guy I had a lot of success with in the past, two championships and trying to win a third together, it will be a great year next year," Dillon said. "I just can't wait. ... Having that familiar voice back on the radio for me is going to be huge.

"I know what kind of passion he has for the sport, and the amount of effort he is going to put in next year is going to set the bar high at RCR."

There will be some movement with charters as well. Furniture Row Racing has told inquiring teams that it has a buyer for its charter, but no one has announced who has bought it and where it could end up in 2019. It is not expected to result of any expansion of one of the top-10 organizations.