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Kurt Busch gets Stewart-Haas contract extension, lands Monster sponsorship

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- Kurt Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion who joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, will remain at the organization, which announced a multiyear contract extension Wednesday for Busch along with a sponsorship from Monster energy drink.

Busch had been sponsored primarily by Haas Automation, the company owned by SHR co-owner Gene Haas, since joining the team. Monster will be on the hood as a co-primary sponsor with Haas Automation for 17 races plus an additional race where it is the full primary sponsor.

"I feel very blessed and privileged to have this opportunity," said Busch, who was suspended for the first three races of 2015 after he was found to have committed an act of domestic violence in family court in Delaware but was never charged criminally.

That suspension, and the nearly four-month investigation and court appearances that preceded it, made some believe Busch was so toxic he would never earn a sponsor again beyond Haas, whose main concern is winning races and who had backed Busch throughout the allegations made by his ex-girlfriend.

Monster also remained supportive of Busch, who had been a Monster athlete since driving a Monster-sponsored car in 2012 for his brother's Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Xfinity Series.

"We kept in constant contact with Kurt and he kept us informed of everything," Monster Energy vice president of sports marketing Mitch Covington said. "We took the position that you're innocent until proven guilty. 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. To my knowledge, we didn't get a lot of negative feedback [for keeping him]."

The 37-year-old Busch has 27 career victories in 535 Cup starts. He has three wins at SHR and has made the Chase for the Sprint Cup in both of his seasons at SHR. He didn't advance out of the opening round in 2014 but remains alive in the 2015 Chase, as he sits third in the standings entering the final race of the second round this weekend at Talladega.

Busch said that the support of SHR and the mentorship and guidance of crew chief Tony Gibson allowed him to reach this point where he could excel on the race track after the suspension.

"I never wavered -- I felt like the truth would be told and if I stayed focused in the car, that every time I put that visor down, that's my safe haven, that's my comfort zone and that's where I'm able to do my best and be able to enjoy it out there," Busch said. "That's what Stewart-Haas enabled me to do.

"They limited certain things, which helped me focus on the car and it was great to have the family-type support and have everyone rally around [my] 41 car."

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.

Team co-owner Tony Stewart said that adding Monster will help take some of the burden of footing the bill for the car by Haas, who is bankrolling a Formula 1 effort that takes to the track next season.

"This was something that was really Kurt's project," Stewart said. "This is something he worked really hard at getting over. ... This is a really good example of Kurt and how good of relationships he has with companies."