Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pure Speculation

According to unnamed sources, Marty Smith of ESPN and Tom Bowles of Sports Illustratedwere sitting in a Charlotte bar Tuesday night, discussing an editorial by Fox Sports' Lee Spencer. In the article, posted April 12, Spencer speculated that Tony Stewart might be talking to Haas/CNC Racing about his prospects of being a part time driver and part owner of the team.

Stewart, who is under contract to Joe Gibbs Racing through the 2009 season, was in talks regarding his future with Coach Gibbs earlier in the week. When Stewart was asked whether or not he had interest in being an owner in the Cup garage he joked, "I don't think I'm politically correct enough to be an owner in NASCAR"

Anyway Bowles and Smith were allegedly wondering what they could come up with that could top that story. "What if the deal is already being made?" Marty allegedly asked Bowles.
"And what if Stewart decides to get out of his contract early," Tom Bowles allegedly added to the speculation.
They allegedly drank a few more beers and secretly decided what they would write about the next day, Wednesday being a traditionally slow news day for NASCAR.
Tom Bowles woke up early the next morning and allegedly got to work on his story. Citing "unnamed sources" (allegedly Lee Spencer and Marty Smith) he wrote his article about how Tony Stewart would leave Joe Gibbs Racing before his contract was up at the end of next year, and would be driving full time for and be part owner of Haas/CNC Racing. He could find nothing to support his story, so he included the following:
"He's there this year and he's there next year," claimed Arning (Stewart's PR spokesman). "And I know for a fact that JGR is interested in retaining Tony for '10 and beyond. They'd like him to retire at Joe Gibbs Racing. As Tony's said many times, 'Nothings broke. Why change it?'

"Tony's going to have a lot of options in front of him; why wouldn't he? But I don't see [an early out happening] ... everyone is going to live up to the terms of the contract that runs through '09."

Realizing that he didn't really have a story, Bowles dropped the names Jamie McMurray, and Kurt Busch, relating how they left their former contracts early, and went on to tell the story of how Darrel Waltrip left Junior Johnson's team and joined Hendrick Motorsports.

Marty Smith went with something a little more conservative, publishing this story and supporting it this way:
"He definitely has some options," JGR president J.D. Gibbs said. "To me it's no different than any of the the options he's had before. The reality is he's racing here through 2009. There's no ifs, ands or buts about that one. Our stance is he's racing for us through 2009."

Stewart's publicist, Mike Arning, said "Tony's contract is through the 2009 season. When that is up he'll have a lot of options for 2010 and beyond. But in terms of what he's going to do, or might do, for now and in between, as far as JGR is concerned he's their driver for 2009."

Haas GM Joe Custer said he has spoken with several people about the future status of his team, including Stewart's group. He was adamant that his team has reached no deal with Stewart, but would "by all means be interested in discussing a partnership with a driver of his caliber."

He mentioned unnamed sources (allegedly Tom Bowles and Lee Spencer) as a large part of his speculation.

The real story was that it was just a slow news day, after the Sprint Cup had an off week, and there was nothing to report. The week after the Easter break was another off season, and you may remember this story about stolen priority parts, which Geoff Smith, GM of Roush-Fenway dismissed as nothing more than bickering between Roush and Lee White.

To confuse the rumor mill even more, Fox's Lee Spencer updated her original "story" and added two more possibilities:

Behind curtain No. 2: The fourth seat at Richard Childress Racing. With two of RCR's cars on top of the point standings, there's no question that R.C. could provide Smoke with a competitive ride. RCR has a fourth sponsor lined up with General Mills but has not announced who will replace AT&T at the end of 2008. Stewart could be that rock-star driver that draws another eight-figure deal.

Behind curtain No. 3: Stewart remains in the No. 20 Home Depot car, rides off into the sunset with a humongous raise and perhaps a piece of the Gibbs' pie. Stewart loves to gamble. He wouldn't be the first driver to bluff before showing his hand.

That should give Bowles and Smith more stories to "break" the next time the news is slow.

I remain skeptical that Tony Stewart would opt out of his contract early. Certainly it is possible, but he has said many times in the recent past that he would not race without his crew chief, Greg Zippadelli, and that he would probably retire with Joe Gibbs Racing. If he does become co-owner of Haas/CNC it will be after 2009, and he will not be driving a Sprint Cup car, at least not full time. I am basing this on what Stewart has said in the past about his career plans, and if there is anything to what Bowles and Smith have written, I'll believe it when I see it.


Tim Zaegel said...

Heh. If he's not running someone over or knocking out a photographer, the media will still find SOMETHING to write about Tony, eh?

RevJim said...

I think it's time for Jack Roush to come up with another "scandal," It will give them something else to write about.
CNN and ESPN don't seem to be too worried about credibility, maybe they can make something up about someone else next week.