Tony Stewart leaving Gibbs
Tony Stewart will announce today that he's leaving Joe Gibbs Racing after a 10-year association to pursue 50 percent ownership in Haas-CNC Racing (which will be called Stewart-Haas Racing beginning next year). This is a major "Silly Season" shoe that needed to drop before the rest of the big names who will potentially be available -- Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr., Casey Mears -- and some of the sport's lesser free agents -- Paul Menard, Dave Blaney, Scott Riggs, David Ragan, Travis Kvapil, David Reutimann, Johnny Sauter -- could start figuring out their options for rides in '09. There's rampant speculation around the garage, for example, that Newman will come along with Stewart to his new racing team to form a dynamic and marketable tandem.
Does this announcement alter the fantasy landscape for the rest of '08? Probably not. I suppose you could argue that Stewart might be slightly less committed to his Big Orange ride with Gibbs for the season's second half; he's not going to stay with crew chief Greg Zipadelli or any of the rest of his team next season, so perhaps there's some minor chemistry fracture that won't allow the No. 20 to compete at the top level. Then again, Smoke is a guy who wants to win no matter what he's driving, and he would only enhance his future marketability and his legacy with Gibbs if he's able to make a late charge to his third Sprint Cup championship. Be prepared not to use Stewart for a couple weeks while we get a better sense of how "checked out" he'll be in these last 20-odd races, but honestly, I don't expect him to change much at all.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.