Driver Busch, JGR come to terms on new deal
By Ralph N. Paulk
Published: Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 10:36 p.m.
CONCORD, N.C. — Joe Gibbs Racing strengthened its Sprint Cup operation when it signed defending Daytona 500 champion Matt Kenseth following the 2012 season.
On Thursday, team owner Joe Gibbs bolstered his team's chances of becoming one of the most dominant stock car programs by signing Kyle Busch to a multiyear contract extension that will keep Busch in the Toyota-powered No. 18 car for next several seasons.
Gibbs didn't offer specific contract details but said jokingly, “The bad news is we work for him, and we're broke.”
As part of the deal, Busch will drive the No. 54 Nationwide Series car for JGR instead of Kyle Busch Motorsports. Also, JGR will supply engines for Busch's Nationwide and Camping World Truck entries.
“(Busch) has a great Nationwide program where it is, but we felt it would be helpful if we did all under the same roof,” said team president J.D. Gibbs, who also signed Brian Vickers to a Nationwide contract. “We figured he could help us in some areas and we could help him.”
Gibbs said he wanted to secure a deal with Busch before he considered other offers. Gibbs wasn't willing to let Busch slip away as Roush-Fenway Racing did in losing Kenseth to JGR.
“Kyle's got all the money, but I've got all the good stuff,” Kenseth joked during Thursday's news conference during the NASCAR Media Tour.
Busch countered, “Yeah, but I've got all the talent.”
Indeed, Busch is among NASCAR's most-talented drivers despite winning only one Sprint Cup race in 2012 and missing the Chase. The Las Vegas native has won more NASCAR events than any driver since his rookie year in 2004 — including a record 51 Nationwide victories.
However, signing Busch wasn't a done deal until he passed on a couple of offers. Busch neither denied nor confirmed suggestions that he considered deals with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing, all of which could be searching the free-agent market for new drivers for 2014.
“I did it all privately,” Busch said. “I did meet with some other teams, and they were very interested. There were some very nice, lucrative deals that were out there to pursue. This is a great organization at Joe Gibbs Racing, and we can win a championship.”
Busch said he put off negotiations in August to concentrate on making the Chase. Instead, his future with JGR was in doubt after a poor effort in the Chase cut-off race at Richmond, where he won the spring race.
“I felt there was a lot to lose going somewhere else instead of staying here,” said Busch, who began his Cup career with Hendrick Motorsports before moving to JGR. “It's something we'd been working on for a long time, and I've probably taken a few years off of coach's (Gibbs) life. Hopefully I'll repay him somehow, hopefully with a championship.”
Busch's signing bolsters an already-strong sponsorship cache for JGR. As part of the deal, Monster Energy continues its financial support of Busch in the team's Nationwide ride.
“In signing a long-term contract, Kyle is telling Joe he has confidence in Joe Gibbs Racing to help him win championships,” said crew chief Dave Rogers. “On the other hand, we're saying that can represent JGR for many years to come.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RalphPaulk_Trib.
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