AP Sports Writer
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (AP) - Joe Gibbs Racing announced Thursday that Kyle Busch has signed a long-term extension to continue driving the No. 18 Toyota Camry.
In addition, JGR will field the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota in the Nationwide Series for at least 25 races with Busch as the primary driver. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Busch, who has won 24 NASCAR Sprint Cup races and made the Chase for the Cup five times since 2005, said he chose to stay with JGR after weighing offers from two other ownership groups.
"It's something that is really exciting that we've been working on for a long time," Busch said. "I probably took a few years off coach's life, but hopefully not. I'll repay him somehow, maybe with some championships."
Busch has 105 career wins spanning all three NASCAR series, including 51 in the Nationwide Series. However, the 27-year-old Busch is coming off a disastrous season by his own standards.
He finished 13th in the Sprint Cup standings and missed the Chase. And while he ranked second in the Cup in laps led, he only found Victory Lane once and finished the year with 13 top-five finishes after winning a combined 19 races the previous four years.
Busch ran his own car in the Nationwide Series and was winless in 22 races, posting three seconds and two thirds after winning 40 races in the previous four seasons. He competed in three events on the Camping World Truck series but failed to win there, too.
He called it his "worst season ever."
During negotiations, Busch said, Gibbs was "adamant" about Busch racing JGR cars during the Nationwide series, which he feels will give him a better chance to win.
"So I will be rejoining forces here and running about 25 races and then filling out the rest of the races with some younger talent in the non-companion races," Busch said.
Busch said he feels comfortable working for Gibbs, which made the decision to return fairly easy. Of course, the lucrative contract didn't hurt either.
"The good news is we signed him to a long-term deal, the bad news is we now work for him _ and we're broke," Gibbs joked.
With Matt Kenseth joining Busch and Denny Hamlin on the Sprint Cup Series, Gibbs said this is the most excited he's been entering a season.
He expects his Sprint Cup team to be competitive every week and also is excited about the prospect of running four cars on the Nationwide Series with Brian Vickers joining Kenseth, Busch and Hamlin.
While his drivers are friends and teammates, Gibbs said he expects some of that to wear off when February arrives.
"I was thinking this whole offseason they got along great and everything, but that's going to last until about the first time they get alongside each other up front," Gibbs said. "And I'm going to be ducking and dodging. All of these guys driving for us, we know each one is going to be going after (a championship)."
The good-natured jabs heated up at Thursday's Sprint Cup Series media day.
While on stage with his teammates, Busch was asked when Hamlin will get to sign a long-term extension with JGR.
"Well, we already gave him all of the best stuff," Busch cracked. "He had the fastest Toyota car down at Daytona in testing. What else do we gotta do? He's already got all of the good stuff."
Hamlin jabbed back, "I make up for it in talent."
Hamlin admittedly is a little sleep-deprived of late. He and his longtime girlfriend, Jordan Fish, welcomed their first child, a daughter named Taylor James Hamlin, born on Jan. 20 at 8:20 p.m. (20:20 military time) and she was 20 inches long.
"We squelched the rumor that Denny will now be driving the No. 20 car," joked JGR president J.D. Gibbs.
Kenseth brings a winning resume to Gibbs Racing. A two-time Daytona 500 winner and the 2003 Sprint Cup champion, Kenseth has won 24 Cup races including three last year for Roush Fenway Racing.
"It sounds like Kyle and Denny are already tied for the championship this year, but I'm looking forward to this anyway," Kenseth joked as he looked over at his teammates. He called it a "new beginning" and said sometimes change is good.
"I feel like it's a great opportunity to go and hopefully compete for some wins and try to compete for a championship," Kenseth said.
Said Gibbs: "It's great having Matt on board. He's somebody that we all respect. It's a thrill for us to have him."
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