Truex, Gibbs maintain status quo
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Martin Truex Jr. stood at the rear of the 18-wheeler that transports his Chevrolets to and from the racetrack, having just finished one practice and soon to scurry off to another. His eyes were hidden by pitch-black sunglasses, but the eye roll was unmistakable nonetheless.
An Internet report Friday suggested that Earnhardt Ganassi Racing may soon stop fielding its No. 8 Chevrolets if a sponsor isn't secured, thereby activating a clause believed to be in Truex's contract that gives him the right to leave the organization. The report stated that, per Truex's driving agreement with EGR, he has the right to leave the company if it provides him with any fewer than two teammates.
Sources with knowledge of Truex's contract with EGR dispute that report, saying the agreement was restructured following the Dale Earnhardt Inc./Chip Ganassi Racing merger and that specific clause may have been removed.
The report speculated whether Truex may be headed to Joe Gibbs Racing to replace young Joey Logano in the No. 20 Toyota, despite the fact Logano has run only six races in the machine.
Interviewed Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, Truex vehemently denied he was going anywhere, and said he will drive the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Chevrolet for the entire 2009 season.
"I'm real confident [I'll be in the No. 1 Chevrolet]," Truex told ESPN. "The last couple years there have been a lot of reports like this, but I've always stayed true to my word. I made a decision last year to stay with this team and try to get things on the right track, and my plans haven't changed so far."
Sources close to Gibbs said Truex was also a candidate to drive a fourth team Joe Gibbs Racing is planning to field, but the driver made it clear he's staying put.
"I have not spoken with any other teams," he said. "It's way too early in the season for me to be doing that."
Truex was the hottest free agent in NASCAR in 2008, and surveyed his options throughout the spring before ultimately choosing to re-sign with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and the No. 1 team.
But that was a one-year agreement, meaning the 2009 season opened just as the 2008 season closed -- with Truex eyeing free agency.
That, in turn, creates residual speculation. He admits it can be distracting at times.
"It's tough. It's tough for me to race hard and have everybody make things up as they go along," Truex said. "But at the same time, it's great to be talked about. It's great to know that people want you and you have opportunities if things don't work out.
"But right now I'm focused on the race, on this team, getting this No. 1 car back to Victory Lane, and trying to make a great year out of this season."
As distracting as it is for Truex, it is debilitating for Logano.
Joe Gibbs, owner of Logano's No. 20 Toyota, said Saturday that Logano is in the car, and will be for the foreseeable future.
"The update on his status is, we love him," Gibbs told ESPN. "Joey's part of our future, and I think everybody from Home Depot and the race team love what he's done so far. We're extremely excited with where we are with Joey. There's no truth to any rumor about anything other than Joey's our future here, and he's our future with Home Depot."
Logano entered the Sprint Cup Series this year as the most-hyped young talent in NASCAR history -- and with tremendous pressure to succeed. Home Depot had enjoyed 10 years and two championships with Tony Stewart, and took a chance on the young phenom.
"Anybody that's going to race at this level may have to deal with a certain amount of pressure," Gibbs said. "I've talked to Joey about that. If you don't like pressure, you're in the wrong job.
"Part of the pressure is there'll be things like this [speculation] said, and you've got to learn to deal with those, particularly if you're a very young driver. In Joey's case, he's pioneering a new area for drivers, really. He's 18 years old.
"So I think that's just part of what can happen up here. Somebody starts a rumor and it takes off. In this case there's no base for it."
Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com.