Toyota officials plan no involvement in Stewart talks with Gibbs

Updated: May 3, 2008, 11:39 PM ET

AP Photo/Shawn Chamberlin

Patrick Carpentier, middle, is sandwiched by Kurt Busch, left, and Matt Kenseth.

RICHMOND, Va. -- Toyota officials don't want to lose Tony Stewart to another manufacturer, but they won't get involved in negotiations to keep the two-time Sprint Cup champion at Joe Gibbs Racing after his contract expires in 2009.

"We're not a company that gets in the middle between owners and drivers," Lee White, the general manager of Toyota Racing Development, said before Saturday's race at Richmond International Raceway. "If there is a manufacturer out there that is spearheading or brokering or promoting an activity like this, I can promise you it will not be Toyota.

"We don't consider that to be our role in the garage."

There has been speculation that Chevrolet is behind a move to lure Stewart, who uses the manufacturer for his Sprint car organization, to CNC Haas Racing. Part-ownership of the team also is on the table, which Stewart has acknowledged.

"I'm going to go out on a limb and say Tony really likes to win," White said. "I think Tony's best opportunity to win races, multiple races, and continue to threaten for championships is right where he is."

Haas, despite engine support from Hendrick Motorsports, hasn't won a race since it entered Cup in 2002. It has only one top-5 finish and 13 top-10s in that time.

"Tony is very valuable to Toyota," White said. "He's one of the best, if not the best well-rounded driver in North America today. He's colorful. He's flamboyant. He's done nothing but good stuff for our company.

"But if Tony elects to do something else, we're going to wish him well and do everything in our power from a technology standpoint to make him regret his decision on the winning side."

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

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Standings

Bad day for some big names

Busch

The last thing former Cup champions Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch, mired at 19th and 20th in points heading into the night, needed was another headache.

They got one on Lap 229, when J.J. Yeley got into the outside wall, triggering an 11-car pileup that ended Busch's night and left Kenseth way back in the field after a lengthy trip to the garage for repairs.

Busch finished 42nd to fall to 24th in points. Kenseth finished 38th to slip to 22nd.

"I had my brakes all locked up," Busch said. "I had nowhere to go. We're just not getting our cars to turn. When you're not getting the car to turn, you're running heavy in the pack.

"We're just not breaking through into that top-5 pack where things are a bit calmer."

Also involved in the crash were Patrick Carpentier, Jimmie Johnson, Juan Pablo Montoya, Michael McDowell, Johnny Sauter, David Gilliland, Regan Smith and Jeff Burton.

Kyle Busch took over the points lead from Burton.

Better late than never

Richmond International Raceway ran its string of sellouts to 33 consecutive Cup races on Saturday.

There was concern the streak would end when tickets remained on Friday. Typically, the race is sold out a week ahead of time, by Thursday at the latest.

Drivers and track officials agreed high fuel prices and tough economic times slowed that process.

"Richmond International Raceway is known as a fan favorite, and selling out tonight's race is a testament to the dedication of our fans," RIR president Doug Fritz said. "Even in these tough economic times, our fans at Richmond continue to show they are the most loyal in the industry."