Smoke on the move?
Now that we’re done with that, let’s move on to my friend and yours , Mr. Stewart. Everyone’s favorite motorsports lightning rod shocked the NASCAR world this week by saying he will be exploring all options and may want out of Joe Gibbs Racing by the end of the year. Nothing has been finalized, but he said he has several options to consider and is discussing the matter with the Gibbs team, which currently has him under contract through the 2009 season.
Considering that he’s won two titles at Gibbs and is driving pretty solid equipment, at first I scratched my head. Then I realized something … this is Tony Stewart, so don’t attempt to apply logic. The theories are many. One is that he’s anti-Toyota and wants to go back to driving a Chevy somewhere. This may be a part of the equation, but I don't think it's a big one.
Another option is that he is interested in at least partial team ownership, something he has admitted is part of a couple deals he is considering. This is intriguing, and perhaps unwise in my opinion. One initial report has him becoming half-owner of the Haas CNC Racing team and driving either the 66 or 70 car. This is such a crazy idea I doubt Tony would go that route -- in part due to the fact that the team’s owner Gene Haas is currently in prison for tax evasion, never mind the fact that his cars are pretty terrible most weeks.
Where the other offers come from is anybody’s guess. Every NASCAR team would kill to have Stewart on their roster, but there aren’t too many with spots that appear open. For all we know, maybe he wants to go to Hendrick and complete the ultimate superhero-level team of Johnson, Gordon, Jr. and Tony -- kind of like NASCAR’s equivalent of the Justice League. Only Tony knows where he may end up if he does decide to leave (something he has not done yet, he clarified Thursday).
If this would have happened last year, I would have said Gibbs will fight to keep Stewart through next year. But with Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin on the team, they’ll do well even without him. If Stewart does want to pursue team ownership, I would think they can come to an agreement and release him after 2008.
Wherever he goes, if he goes, I wish him luck. It’s hard to start over in NASCAR, especially if you go the ownership route (ask Robby Gordon).