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Report: Stewart to be granted release from JGR

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Dadd   Wednesday, 07/09/08 07:16:57 AM
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Report: Stewart to be granted release from JGR
by FOXSports.com

Updated: July 9, 2008, 2:23 AM EST 172 comments
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Two-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart is expected to be granted his official release from Joe Gibbs Racing Wednesday, according to a report by the Charlotte Observer.

The report merely confirms what regular FOXSports.com readers have known for months — that Stewart is leaving the only NASCAR home he's ever known.

Mike Arning, a spokesman for Stewart, said an announcement concerning Stewart's future would be made Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

While his deal runs through 2009, Stewart will reportedly be released from his contract obligations with JGR at the end of this season. It is expected to be announced soon that Stewart will join Haas CNC Racing.

"We're just going to look at everything out there," Stewart said in April in announcing he'd test the market. "A wise person once told me it doesn't cost a dime to listen, so right now we're all ears."

While exploring his options, Stewart was most intrigued in potential ownership opportunities and he's had an offer on the table since April to purchase the fledgling two-car team of Haas-CNC Racing. By owning his own team, Stewart believed he could ensure a spot for himself in NASCAR long after his driving days.

JGR is expected to replace the 37-year-old Stewart, one of NASCAR's most celebrated drivers, with 18-year-old phenom Joey Logano with Home Depot staying on board as the sponsor.

Assuming Stewart does buy Haas-CNC, he'll re-establish his long relationship with Chevrolet. The partnership was partially fractured this season when Gibbs moved to Toyota. General Motors continued to sponsor the sprint cup teams that Stewart also owns.

Gene Haas, owner of the two-car team, began serving a two-year prison sentence for tax evasion in January. The team fields a car this season for Scott Riggs, and a second entry that has been piloted by several drivers. Neither car is in the top 35 in points, and the team was devastated in May by stiff NASCAR penalties for bringing illegal cars to a race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Stewart is expected to gut the organization and bring in his own people, including a second driver. Fellow Indiana native Ryan Newman is among those rumored to be in line to join Stewart's team next season.

Stewart will have followed in the footsteps of another high-profile driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., in leaving a long-time team. Earnhardt left Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2007 to join Hendrick Motorsports.

Stewart, who has failed to win a Sprint Cup race this season, has notched at least two victories every year since his rookie of the year campaign in 1999. He does have five top-five, and eight top-10 finishes in 18 starts this year. He is in his 10th season driving Gibbs' No. 20 car. He and crew chief Greg Zipadelli have been together since the start in NASCAR's longest active driver-crew chief pairing,

For his career, Stewart has 32 series wins, and won the Cup title in 2002 and 2005.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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