Stewart won't own part of JGR
Gibbs would help Stewart for team
by Lee Spencer
Lee Spencer is a senior NASCAR writer for FOXSports.com.
Updated: April 27, 2008, 3:05 PM EST
TALLADEGA, Ala. - Joe Gibbs joked he'd rather be at Talladega Superspeedway than in the war room at the NFL draft.
Until the Tony Stewart inquisition began.
With Stewart's plans undeclared for 2009 and beyond, Gibbs and his heir apparent, son J.D., the current president of Joe Gibbs Racing, made several aspects of their senior driver's negotiations clear.
First, JGR has "had no conversations on (Stewart) leaving before the contract is up." J.D. Gibbs noted that the company has too much time invested with sponsor Home Depot and the team after a 10-year relationship to break up the band, with the contract running through the end of 2009.
"I would say from our standpoint, if someone was saying for him to come out next year — we would have a problem with that," Gibbs said. "If someone was saying, 'Hey, let's leave next year and come over here,' I think we would have a problem and that's the same thing in any sport. Those conversations really haven't come up between us. We've just focused on the next couple of years. He's got a lot of options for 2010 and beyond."
There has been speculation that if Stewart can't be released from his contract that he would possibly begin the ownership process, but continue to wheel the No. 20 in 2009. Gibbs said he hasn't "thought about it, but there's probably some stuff there we could look at."
Secondly, JGR was not surprised that Stewart was looking at other options. Stewart is a franchise driver, and certainly someone in his position must review potential opportunities. One of the biggest delays in Stewart's contract the last time around was the division from the profit of souvenirs. Expect drivers of the caliber of Stewart and Carl Edwards to place a greater emphasis in building the off-track prospects.
Although Stewart has made it clear that money is not a priority, he's taken a hit on sales of merchandise due to his association with Toyota.
Another aspect of Stewart's portfolio is the desire for ownership. J.D. said that was not likely with JGR, but there could be other options.
"I think our deal is kind of set the way it is," Gibbs said. "I think there's some stuff we could do to get him started with his own team if that's what he really wanted. I think there might be some possibilities there. It could be a number of things and again, it's kind of new to us. But there's a lot of stuff we could do there as far as engines, cars, bodies — we could do a lot of things to help him in the future if that is something he felt like he wanted to do."
Coach Gibbs says that from the first time he met Stewart, more than a decade ago on the tarmac of the Columbus (Ind.) Airport, that his priority has been about winning. Gibbs still believes that his company can offer drivers a consistent operation to accomplish that goal.
Regardless of what happens, J.D. believes for all concerned that the sooner Stewart makes his decision, the better it will be for everyone.
"I think that's the same with all our guys," Gibbs said. "We were working on this last year some, so it's not like this is something we're just starting on. The sooner we could get this put to bed, the better." http://msn.foxsports.com/nascar/story/8079596/Gibbs-would-help-Stewart-for-team