Sunday, July 29, 2007
Gibbs Racing, DEI, Evernham Motorsports in pole position for Busch signature
By David Newton
INDIANAPOLIS -- Joe Gibbs Racing, Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Evernham Motorsports appear to be the front-runners for Nextel Cup driver Kyle Busch.
Busch met with DEI drivers and management on Saturday in Indianapolis. He is scheduled to meet with EMS owner Ray Evernham and drivers this week.
J.D. Gibbs, the president of Joe Gibbs Racing, admitted his organization is in the running.
"We've had conversations with them. I'll say that,'' Gibbs said before Sunday's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "He's got a lot of great opportunities and we're one of them.''
Busch would only acknowledge that he is down to 3-5 teams.
"We are still talking to a few teams,'' he said. "We haven't quite narrowed it down to just one. There have been a few teams we have eliminated.''
Chip Ganassi Racing and Richard Childress Racing were among Busch's five finalists. Multiple sources close to the situation said JGR and DEI have the upper hand and that a decision will come within the next seven to 14 days.
"He's in the process of going through a second round of talks,'' said a team executive who asked not to be identified.
Busch said he has no timetable because "it is a career-defining choice.''
"You can't just say this is where you want to go,'' he said. "You have to sit down and look at it and review everything to look at the best possible choice for myself.
"This could be the final place that I stay. If I make a little bit of a wrong decision, I still might be able to move one more time, but I would like to make it the last time.''
Busch said money and manufacturer are not an issue. JGR and DEI are negotiating new deals to drive Chevrolet for General Motors, with JGR also having discussions with Toyota.
Evernham fields three Dodge teams.
"I have been with Chevrolet and I have a lot of great friends over at Chevrolet,'' said Busch, who is being replaced by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports next season.
"I just did an appearance for them last night and got a chance to talk to Ed Peper, the GM of Chevrolet [Racing]. They would like to see me in one [Chevrolet] and continue our relationship, but if it comes down to it and we go somewhere else, I just hope to leave on good terms.''
If Busch opts for JGR or EMS he likely will knock another driver out of a job. Evernham said he preferred to remain a three-car team in 2008, meaning Scott Riggs would be the odd man out on a team that also includes Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler.
The same would be true for J.J. Yeley in the No. 18 at JGR, which Gibbs said will not expand to four teams next season.
"We've talked to J.J.,'' Gibbs said. "Nothing would make us more excited with J.J. than to go out there and knock a couple wins off, a couple of great runs. He could be there forever.''
But not necessarily in a Cup car next year.
"It's one of those things that's not worth going into much detail with until we see what's going on,'' Gibbs said. "Just a lot of different possibilities. We're being patient to see how it all plays out.''
Gibbs declined to speculate on where JGR stands in manufacturer negotiations, only to say talks to extend Tony Stewart's contract did not have to be completed first.
"We aren't any closer on the driver situation or manufacturer situation than we were a couple of weeks ago,'' he said. "I do know GM has made a great effort to sit down and make our guys feel comfortable.''
As for how Busch might fit in with Stewart, who has had run-ins with the 22-year-old in the past, Gibbs said, "I feel comfortable whoever is in that role that Tony would be exited about having them there.''
David Newton covers motorsports for ESPN.com.