Joe Gibbs ‘surprised’ Kyle Busch’s extension not done

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LOUDON, N.H. — Car owner Joe Gibbs admits he’s “surprised” that his team has not completed a contract extension for two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch.

Joe Gibbs Racing also has yet to announce a sponsor for the No. 18 car for next season. Mars, Inc. announced in December that this season would be its last sponsoring a car at JGR and the last for the company in NASCAR. Without a sponsor, the team can’t complete Busch’s extension.

“It’s been hard,” Gibbs said Sunday after Christopher Bell won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the organization. “We’re working really hard to try and get things done, and it is hard, though. 

“You’ve got to put a lot in place to make things work out, and we’re working as hard as we can. We’re going after it, a number of different directions. So yeah, I’m surprised at this point that we haven’t been able to get that finished.”

Busch has been with Joe Gibbs Racing since 2008. Fifty-six of his 60 Cup wins have come with the organization. He won the championship with JGR in 2015 and ’19.

Joe Gibbs Racing officials have said that they typically seek to complete driver extensions before the final season of the contract. Losing Mars, Inc., last year forced JGR to change that timetable as it sought another sponsor to fund the No. 18 car and Busch’s salary.

Dave Alpern, president of Joe Gibbs Racing, said earlier this month that the team plans to retain Busch, but admitted “this one’s taken a little longer than we thought. It’s not for lack of interest. It’s just trying to get everything put together.”

He said that an extension for Busch and new sponsor deal “will probably happen in parallel.”

Busch told reporters Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that he’s talked to other teams for next season but added “until there’s an announcement that somebody else is driving the 18 car, then I feel like I still have a seat.”

Busch finished 12th Sunday after spinning twice in the race. He is sixth in the points and has one Cup victory this season.