Marketable Stewart has leverage to gets what he wants
Don't blame Tony Stewart for trying to plan his future. He's one heckuva racer, but he's a pretty savvy businessman, too, writes Terry Blount.
Updated: April 26, 2008, 5:07 PM ETBy Terry Blount | ESPN.com
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Tony Stewart said Thursday that nothing is broken at Joe Gibbs Racing. Actually, he said it five times in 20 minutes.In one brief interview session, he also said three times that nothing needs fixing at JGR. Twice he said nothing is wrong, twice he said JGR is a great partner and once he said there isn't a problem in the organization.To paraphrase "Hamlet": The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.Stewart has clearly overemphasized a point. Yes, everything is rosy at Gibbs, but what do you really want?Options, that's what. Class is in session. This is Contract Negotiations 101.Stewart wants to call his own shots. He wants to secure his future in racing beyond his days as a driver. And he wants a chance to get out of his 2009 commitment to JGR if he feels it's in his best interest.If needed, Stewart wants to go to Joe Gibbs and say, "I've given you 11 years of my life. I've given you two Cup championships. Now I need you to let me go." Stewart can be surly at times, as we all know, but he's no dummy. He's a savvy businessman who has surrounded himself with some wise people.He is one of the most marketable and powerful men in auto racing. That means leverage. It's time to play his hand and put all the cards on the table.Stewart took notice last season when Dale Earnhardt Jr. used his status as NASCAR's biggest star to find out what riches were available to him. Driving for a Sprint Cup championship remains an important goal for Stewart at age 36. But equally important is a desire to hold the puppet strings. Stewart is a racer's racer. Nothing makes him happier than being at a racetrack, any racetrack. It's the reason he bought Eldora Speedway, a way to guarantee he would stay involved in the racing at the management level.But it isn't enough. Stewart also has an ego to feed, and running a dirt track doesn't do it. Becoming a successful Cup team owner does.Stewart wants the option of majority ownership. That isn't an option at Gibbs. It's the family business and has moved on to the next generation.Taking over and running the show is a possibility at Haas/CNC Racing. Team owner Gene Haas is serving a two-year prison sentence for tax evasion, which began in January.The two-car team has struggled along this season, but where things stand for the long run is unknown. Bringing Stewart in as a co-owner and driver instantly would bring stability to the operation.Stewart probably would want the option to buy out Haas at some point, or at least take controlling interest.
Tony has networked his entire career. He has a lot of relationships with people that would serve him well should he decide to become a Cup owner.
-- Dale Earnhardt Jr.
MORE RACING HEADLINES
- Keselowski cruises to N'wide win in Loudon
- Ky. Busch sets track record, wins N.H. pole
- RTA open for other NASCAR owners to join
- NASCAR president: No animosity toward RTA