Commentary

Gibbses want to keep Stewart, but ownership offer not part of deal

J.D. and Joe Gibbs are hoping Tony Stewart stays with their team long term, but they aren't offering an ownership stake to make it happen, writes Terry Blount.

Updated: April 27, 2008, 8:08 PM ET
By Terry Blount | ESPN.com

TALLADEGA, Ala. -- If Tony Stewart wants to become a NASCAR team owner, he'll have to do it somewhere other than Joe Gibbs Racing.

J.D. Gibbs, president of JGR, said Sunday that co-ownership at Gibbs is not an option for Tony Stewart, but other options are available.

"Our [ownership] deal is set the way it is," Gibbs said. "But we could do some stuff to help him get started with his own team if that's what he really wanted."

Stewart said earlier in the week that he is interested in becoming a Sprint Cup team owner. He also said Haas/CNC Racing has offered that option while allowing him to drive for them.

But Stewart is under contact with JGR through the 2009 season. Gibbs said they have no intention of ending the relationship with Stewart before the contract expires. The deal with Home Depot, the primary sponsor of the No. 20 Toyota Stewart drives, also goes through 2009.

"If someone were to say to Tony they want him to come out next year, yes, we have a problem with that," Gibbs said. "But we've had no conversations about him leaving early. There's too much on the line from our standpoint and Home Depot's standpoint. Those people count on us. Too much has been built and invested in that."

Gibbs was asked if it's possible Stewart could own a competing Cup organization and still drive for JGR. Dale Earnhardt drove for Richard Childress Racing while owning Dale Earnhardt Inc.

"I haven't thought about it, but there's probably some things there we could look at in that direction," Gibbs said. "It could be a number of things."

Stewart is one of the most marketable drivers in racing, so JGR may find itself in a bidding war for his services. Gibbs said that's nothing new, looking at his father, Joe, the former coach of the Washington Redskins.

"The reason my dad went back to coaching the first time was to pay for Tony's last contract," J.D. said smiling at his father. "If we have to send him back to coaching, I've got no problem with that."

Joe Gibbs laughed and said, "I can definitely tell you this: Tony doesn't have to worry about money. He has enough money to last the rest of his life.

"It's been 10 great years [with Stewart] and we hope we end up staying together. But we can't control what other people do."

J.D. said they also hope this issue is settled soon because they don't want it to become a long-term distraction.

"Tony is a loyal guy," Gibbs said. "But not knowing what's in front of him, I know he wants to take a look at that. We just don't want this to get crazy for two years."

If Stewart decides to leave, JGR feels it has a future star waiting in the wings with teenager Joey Logano, widely viewed as the most talented young racer in America. Logano will start racing in the Nationwide Series when he turns 18 next month.

"Joey is a phenomenal talent," Gibbs said. "We love him, but we're in no hurry. If he's rockin' and rollin' out of the gate, great. If it takes a while, fine. He's our future. We won't steamroll that to fill a void."

Gibbs remains hopeful things will work out for Stewart to stay at JGR.

"The No. 1 issue for Tony always has been where can he run the best and have the best chance to win," Gibbs said. "We feel like that will be here. Tony is a huge asset to JGR and we would love for him to be a part of our future."

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.

Terry Blount

ESPN Seattle Seahawks reporter

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