Stewart to Bolt from Gibbs Team for Haas CNC
SI.com is reporting that former NASCAR Champion Tony Stewart wants to leave Joe Gibbs Racing, the team that originally brought Stewart to NASCAR from Indy cars. According to the website, the deal is almost complete and will allow Stewart to drive next season for Haas CNC.
Hass’s spokesperson issued a statement asserting that there had been no contact between the team and Stewart, but no one is believing it. Stewart’s PR man simply stated that the current contract with Gibbs runs through the end of 2009. According to Stewart’s spokesperson, the Gibbs Racing team would like to renew Stewart’s contract.
Nonetheless, inside sources are portrayed by SI.com as “adamant” that Stewart is leaving and that the final details are all that remain to be worked out.
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The move may have been suggested by Stewart’s apparent reluctance, during the past season and the beginning of this season, to negotiate a contract extension with Gibbs.
Speculation is that the move has more than a little to do with the brand being employed by the Gibbs team: Toyota. Stewart’s team switched this year to Toyotas from Chevrolets and, before that, Pontiac. Stewart had won the Championship driving a Pontiac. Moving to the Haas CNC team would be a return to General Motors for Stewart. According to SI.com, the real power behind the throne at Haas is none other than Rick Hendrick, who is said to be running the team behind the scenes while titular owner Gene Haas is doing federal time for tax fraud.
So, why would Stewart go from a top team to an also-ran?
Several reasons, the primary one being a partial ownership interest in the new team. Second, of course, is the role of Hendrick in the operation and all of the organizational advantages that provides. Third, is the opportunity. SI.com likens to move to Daryl Waltrip’s departure from Junior Johnson’s established team to join a start-up, Hendrick Motorsports, back in 1987.
According to SI.com, the move is not a personal one and Stewart and Gibbs remain very close friends. It is, rather, a move precipitated by opportunities to exceed the boundaries of a contract with Gibbs that could only provide more of the same.
No word yet on whether sponsor Home Depot or crew chief Greg Zipadelli will join Stewart at the new team.