We Almost Called It – Stewart To Bolt JGR In 2009

Charlotte, NC – Well, we had it half right.

Last August, this column stated Tony Stewart wouldn’t be a part of Joe Gibbs Racing in 2009. We were the first to hang that out there, thanks in large part to a tip from a JGR associate.

We went on to state Stewart would retire from NASCAR – “free to run whatever dirt track race and an Indy 500 or two whenever he wants to” – as we put it last August. We even had Joey Logano stepping into the No. 20 JGR Chevy full time in 2009, something that has yet to be announced, but is sure to happen in the near future.

Anyway – ESPN is reporting this morning that Stewart is indeed leaving JGR in 2009, but not to retire from NASCAR for greener pastures, but for greener bucks as a partner in the newly minted Stewart-Haas Racing.

According to the report, JGR has released Stewart from the final year of his driving contract. Stewart is expected to confirm the release sometime today and will formally announce his move to the new team in a press conference at Chicagoland Speedway Thursday.

Stewart, who will own 50 percent of Stewart-Haas Racing, will become the highest paid driver in the sport according to the ESPN report. More than Jr. and Jeffy. Now that’s saying something.

Stewart, fiercely independent, will now get his chance to call the shots. An ‘I can do it better than anyone else’ kind of individual, Stewart will be in control as co-owner and lead driver. Expect Ryan Newman – a fellow open wheeler from Indiana – to be in the second Stewart-Hass car next season.

The deal also allows Stewart to reunite with Chevrolet, as he’ll return to the seat of an Impala next season. Chassis and engines will come from the Hendrick Motorsports shops while Office Depot and Jack Daniels have been bantered about as the most likely primary sponsors next season.

If you’re keeping score, that means Jr., Jeffy, Jimmie, Ryno, Mark Martin and Terrible Tony will all be wheeling potent Hendrick iron next season. Has there ever been a more impressive stable of drivers ever assembled under one banner?

The answer is never. The results will be interesting to watch. Whatever the outcome, it was nice to be first with the news that Stewart was leaving JGR prior to 2009. We just didn’t see this one coming.

Pointless Penalties
It’s a good thing the Stewart news is breaking as it will speed by the other top story of the day – the 150-point penalty to Martin Truex, Jr. and his No. 1 DEI Chevy.

Can you say harsh?

The penalty all but knocks Truex from Chase contention as it drops him from 14th in drivers points – 88 out of the coveted 12th position – to 18th in standings – 238 points out of the Chase. There are only eight remaining qualifying races, so in essence, Truex is screwed.

We have gone on record numerous times in this column stating NASCAR point’s penalties are unfair and puts the sanctioning body in a position of subjectivity. A more simple way to handle these pre- and post-race infractions is to disqualify the offending team and vehicle for that particular event.
Simple – you break the rules – you don’t run or have your finish disallowed. No confiscating vehicles, no fines, no suspensions, no point’s penalties.

It’s time for NASCAR to get this right. Get out of the penalty business – just enforce the rules. Let the racing take care of the points.

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