By JENNA FRYER AP Auto Racing Writer
CONCORD, N.C. — Joe Gibbs Racing signed Kyle Busch to a long-term extension, ensuring he won’t be distracted while the team attempts to return him to championship-contending form.
“It’s just nice to have it done,” team president J.D. Gibbs said Monday. “Nice to focus on what’s coming in the future rather than what’s to be done.”
Gibbs nonchalantly announced the extension during the team’s stop on the annual preseason media tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. He said the deal has actually been signed for some time, but the team wanted the news out so it can focus on the upcoming year.
The season opens Feb. 14 with the Daytona 500.
This season was scheduled to be the third and final year on Busch’s deal with JGR, which snapped him up after his 2007 firing from Hendrick Motorsports. He stormed out of the gate with his new team, winning eight races while leading the points most of the season.
But he tailed off at the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, finished 10th in the final standings, and that inconsistency followed him all of last year. Although he won four races, he failed to make the Chase and his crew chief was fired before the end of the year.
Busch finished 13th in the final standings, and Gibbs wants him back in the Chase and contending for a championship this year.
In addition to rebuilding his Sprint Cup Series team, Busch is also entering ownership this season with two entries in the Truck Series.