Other GM teams concerned Gibbs to Toyota a done deal

8/12/2007 - NASCAR

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Two of the top three owners in Chevrolet expect Joe Gibbs Racing to move to Toyota in 2008.

"I'd say they're gone," said Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, who has agreed to a five-year deal with General Motors.

Richard Childress Racing owner Richard Childress said there are enough signs to believe that JGR will make the jump, which he says will take Toyota to another level.

"It's pretty well written in stone," he said on Sunday at Watkins Glen International.

Childress is so convinced JGR will bolt that he questions whether the organization should be included in Thursday's key partners' meeting at GM's headquarters in Detroit.

"No, I wouldn't feel comfortable with them there," he said. "If the [other Chevrolet] teams have a feeling they're going to be there, we're not going to discuss openly with them in a room things we normally would discuss openly.

"You're sitting there working on stuff for next year and you don't want them to take that and help out the competition."

Gibbs, RCR, Hendrick Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt Inc. comprise the key partners' group that meets once a month to discuss everything from engines to research and development, with a large focus on engines.

They then feed information to the other Chevrolet teams.

J.D. Gibbs, the president of JGR, said his organization plans to attend Thursday's meeting even though he wasn't aware there was one.

He would not comment on talks with Toyota.

"We're not different than anyone else," he said, reminding GM hasn't officially signed with any organization. "And we haven't made any decisions. … We have had great conversations with GM over the past month. We think that will continue moving forward here."

Lee White, the senior vice president and general manager of Toyota Racing Development, said he's had contact from every organization in the Cup garage except Roush Fenway Racing.

While he didn't rule out one of the top tier Chevrolet teams like JGR coming to Toyota should negotiations break down with GM, he said it would be a "stretch" to think that would happen.

JGR has won three championships since 2000 and has a stable of Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch for 2008. As long as there's a chance the organization might bolt, some Chevrolet teams are skeptical about including it in key planning meetings.

"It's one of those deals where our key partners with Chevrolet has been very successful over the years, especially on the engine side," said Richie Gilmore, the director of motorsports at DEI. "We share everything.

"I would think if they're as far down the road as we're hearing they would come up with an excuse [not to attend Thursday's meeting]. … They're a very classy group. If they're that far down the road I wouldn't expect them to show up."

Gilmore said this is a bad year to lose a team such as JGR that has been integral in the development of the new R07 engine.

"We just developed a new engine and all that technology is gone to another competitor," he said.

Hendrick, who helped JGR owner Joe Gibbs get into Cup in 1991, isn't concerned.

"I don't think we're working on anything," he said. "They've been a great contributor and great guys. They're my best friends in the sport, so till the bitter end, I'd be happy if they're there."

David Newton covers motorsports for ESPN.com.