- David Newton, ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter
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CONCORD, N.C. -- As Joey Logano's first sponsor for his first Nationwide Series race next weekend at Dover was being announced on Saturday one question begged to be asked.
Is the 18-year-old sensation being groomed to replace Tony Stewart in the Sprint Cup series?
As much as Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs loves Logano his preference is to groom him to be the driver of a fourth Cup team instead of having him replace one of Gibbs' current drivers.
Gibbs said negotiations to extend Stewart's contract beyond 2009 are ongoing.
"We're still just trying to feel out exactly where he is and exactly how he feels," Gibbs said. "We want him to be here. I want him to be here for a long period of time. At the end of the day all we can control is through next year."
Gibbs has said he will hold Stewart to the last season of his contract. Stewart has said he has not asked out of next season despite reports he has.
The only thing Stewart has confirmed is many teams are pursuing him and ownership has been part of the enticement for one team, Haas CNC Racing.
Sponsorship also will be part of the equation. Home Depot, Stewart's sponsor since he came into NASCAR's premiere series, reported a 66 percent decline in first-quarter earnings.
There have been rumblings about the company's long-term future in the sport.
"They really are in a lot of ways the decision maker," Gibbs said. "We want to make sure whatever we do is something that encourages them. We wouldn't do anything unless they were on board and excited about it."
As for Logano, Gibbs said he will compete in 18 to 19 Nationwide events and possibly a few ARCA races the remainder of this year.
"The Cup thing, we're in no hurry," he said. "We're just going to watch and wait. When the time is right, we'll all be ready to go."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joey Logano could replace Tony Stewart for Gibbs racing.