Source: Stewart secures sponsor for potential Cup team

Updated: July 4, 2008, 1:06 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Tony Stewart has a few obstacles left before he officially can become a Sprint Cup team owner, but sponsorship isn't one of them.

The two-time Cup champion has reached an agreement that would make Office Depot a primary sponsor on his car if he finalizes a deal with Haas CNC Racing, a source close to the negotiations said on Thursday.

[+] EnlargeTony Stewart
AP photo/John RaouxOffice Depot will be the primary sponsor for a potential NASCAR team part-owned by driver Tony Stewart, above. He is in serious talks to seal an ownership/driving agreement with Haas CNC Racing.

Sources said an announcement could be made as early as the weekend of the July 27 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is located about an hour from Stewart's hometown of Columbus.

But before anything can happen Stewart would have to be released from the final year of his contact with Joe Gibbs Racing. JGR president J.D. Gibbs said on Friday at Daytona International Speedway that he remained in negotiations to extend Stewart's deal past 2009.

Gibbs went so far as to say the organization could expand to four teams next season to make room for 18-year-old phenom Joey Logano.

He added that there has been no check offered from Chevrolet, which fields cars for Haas and Stewart's Sprint car teams, to buy out Stewart's contract as reports indicated might happen.

"What we've talked about is 2010," Gibbs said when asked if there are contingencies for Stewart leaving. "We have no control over that. So we kind of put in place if that happens, what makes sense?

"We've talked about a lot of stuff, but that's about all we've nailed down."

Stewart, appearing at a news conference to announce a special paint scheme featuring Old Spice and a "Give Kids The World" camp for next month's Nationwide Series race at Michigan, declined to comment on his contract situation.

"We'll worry about all that down the road here," he said. "We'll continue to let you know when we know."

Sources said Old Spice, which has had a personal service contract deal with Stewart for nine years, is a possibility to share sponsorship with Office Depot.

Old Spice's contract with JGR ends after this season.

"We love our relationship with Tony," said Old Spice representative Jay Gooch. "I'm not going to speculate on what that future holds."

A source close to the situation said there have been discussions with Ryan Newman as the second driver. Newman has told team owner Roger Penske he will not re-sign unless the performance of his team improves and that they will talk again after Saturday's race about the future.

Stewart said two months ago that he'd had inquiries from other teams. He acknowledged there had been talks with Haas CNC that included ownership. Joe Custer, who is running Haas CNC while owner Gene Haas is serving jail time for tax evasion, said things can't move forward until Stewart is released from JGR.

"Nothing can happen until they let him out of his contract," he recently said. "They hold all the cards. Go figure out what they are going to do. When he becomes available we want to talk to him."

Custer said it was not appealing to have Stewart as a co-owner while still driving for JGR next season if the company holds him to his deal.

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

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