KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (AP) — There have been times the last few years that Kurt Busch seemed to be alone on an island fighting for the respect that should come with being one of NASCAR's most talented drivers.
A career full of hiccups both on and off the track had put the former champion in limbo at the start of the season, when he was suspended by NASCAR before the Daytona 500 amid allegations of domestic violence.
His spot driving for Stewart-Haas Racing was safe during the nearly four-month investigation and Busch's three races out of the car. Why? Because SHR co-owner Gene Haas sponsored the car himself and any decisions were his to make. Busch was reinstated after authorities decided no charges were warranted.
Now Busch has outside corporate sponsorship again — Monster Energy announced Wednesday it will be a co-primary sponsor of the No. 41 Chevrolet — and a multi-year contract extension to remain with SHR. Busch has had a personal sponsorship deal with Monster since 2012, and he won an Xfinity Series race for the company while driving for the team owned by his brother, Kyle Busch Motorsports.
The company never doubted its relationship with Busch, vice president of sports marketing Mitch Covington said.
"We took the position that you're innocent until proven guilty," Covington said. "Our relationship with Kurt, what he was being accused of, was not the guy we knew. We stood behind Kurt. We're glad we stood behind him and we're glad to be here today."
Busch has 27 career victories — three since joining SHR last season — in 535 Cup starts. He's in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field and in good position to advance Sunday into the third round. Busch was eliminated in the first round last year, but he's third in the standings headed into Sunday's race at Talladega.
Team co-owner Tony Stewart said it was Busch that pushed for the Monster deal. Monster will debut on Busch's car next week at Martinsville. The company will be on the hood of Busch's car for 17 races next season, on the quarter panel for 18 races and the primary sponsor for one race. Haas Automation will share sponsorship in 35 of the events as the two companies will swap placement on the car.
In bringing in Monster, the financial burden to run the No. 41 is lessened for Haas, who is launching a Formula One team next season.
"This was something that was really Kurt's project," Stewart said. "This is something he worked really hard at."
Monster had been a sponsor of the Xfinity team at Joe Gibbs Racing the past three years after KBM shut down its Xfinity program. Covington wouldn't comment on what his company is spending on the Sprint Cup deal but said it is an increase in its investment.
Monster has sponsored the No. 54 Xfinity Series car at Joe Gibbs Racing typically driven by Kyle Busch. Covington said the lure of more exposure in the Cup Series spurred the move to Kurt Busch and SHR, and promised increased activation at races.
He also didn't rule out the company remaining involved with Kyle Busch in a potential different brand.
"These Busch guys can drive," Covington said.
RCR-MARTIN: Richard Childress Racing has moved former crew chief Gil Martin to competition director for its Xfinity Series teams.
Martin has been with RCR since 2000 and was most recently crew chief for Austin Dillon in the Sprint Cup Series. He won the Xfinity Series title as a crew chief in 2005 with Clint Bowyer, and he's also been the director of research and development for RCR.
"Gil has been in this role before with RCR and we are confident he will do as solid a job as he did before," said Dr. Eric Warren, competition director for RCR. "
HINCHCLIFFE SPONSOR: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has extended its relationship with Arrow Electronics to be the primary sponsor of its IndyCar entry for three years.
Arrow Electronics is a global provider of products, services and solutions to industrial and commercial users of electronic components. The company first joined SPM last season as primary sponsor of the No. 5 IndyCar driven by James Hinchcliffe.
Team co-owner Sam Schmidt, a quadriplegic after a 2000 crash, partnered with Arrow in 2014 on machine-to-machine technologies and the relationship allowed Schmidt to drive laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a modified Corvette.
"This has been an amazing journey from day one," said Schmidt.
BOWYER-2016 SPONSORS: HScott Motorsports has signed Old World Industries to sponsor Clint Bowyer next season with its PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil and BlueDEF Diesel Exhaust Fluid brands.
The company will be a primary sponsor on Bowyer's car at Watkins Glen and Chicago, and as an associate sponsor for all remaining races during 2016.
Bowyer and PEAK have been in partnership since 2012, and the company sponsors his dirt track teams.
Bowyer will spend next season driving for HScott Motorsports, which has a technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing. Bowyer will move to SHR in 2017 to replace Tony Stewart, who will retire at the end of next season.