Kyle Busch has been one of the biggest names potentially shaping up as a free agent at the end of the current season, but he's firmly squashed speculation that he might be about to change teams by agreeing terms with Joe Gibbs Racing for a multi-year contract extension.
"I'm really excited about that being a part of JGR and this family for a long-time to come," Busch said as the new deal was formally announced on Thursday.
The exact duration of the new contract wasn't revealed, but it means Busch will stay with JGR until at least the end of 2015. Busch originally joined the team in 2008 after spending his first three seasons in Sprint Cup competition with Hendrick Motorsports.
“We always start a year early, we never go to the last year," team owner Joe Gibbs said about why the deal was being announced well in advance of the end of Busch's existing contract. "You have a gifted athlete and other people are going to go after him, which happens."
And Busch himself admitted that he'd gone window-shopping at the end of 2012 to see what else might be on offer.
"I did meet with some other teams and they were very interested and there were some very nice, lucrative deals that were out there to pursue,” said the 27-year-old. "Ultimately what it comes down to is relationships and things that you've developed over the last five or six years."
Gibbs admitted that Busch could probably have got more money if he'd chosen to go elsewhere even in an austerity period of tightened belts within the sport, but JGR clearly stretched itself as far as team funds were available in order to keep Busch behind the wheel.
"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!" quipped team president JD Gibbs.
2012 was not a good year for Busch, and he himself dubbed it his "worst season ever" after missing out on making the end-of-season Chase by just three points. In addition, there had been some growing niggles within the driver/team relationship which clearly had an effect.
The team wanted Busch to stop spreading himself so thin over Nationwide and Truck Series races and instead focus on his Sprint Cup season, while Busch himself made waves by setting up and driving for his own Nationwide team which put him in direct composition with JGR's own efforts in the second-tier series. However, the new contract negotiations appear to have resolved those issues moving into 2013.