Tony Stewart is leaving Joe Gibbs Racing after 10 seasons and 32 wins at NASCAR's highest level, the two-time Sprint Cup champion announced Wednesday.
Stewart, 37, will reveal today at Chicagoland Speedway his future plans, which seem likely to involve an equity purchase into woeful Haas CNC Racing, according to ESPN.com. An owner of four sprint car teams and all or parts of three grass roots tracks, Stewart told the St. Petersburg Times in an interview on Friday at Daytona International Speedway that he is increasingly interested in laying the foundation for his life after racing. The Haas option would allow him to compete as long as he wishes before transitioning into a purely ownership role.
This seemingly unthinkable process began, Stewart said, with JGR's announcement it wished to re-sign him a year early. That elicited offers from outside the organization, Stewart said. He obviously heard a pretty good one.
Buying into Haas would also reunite Stewart with his long-time benefactor, General Motors — the company backs his sprint car teams, too — and he was never the pitch man for Toyota that the manufacturer expected when it began supplying engines to JGR.
The two-car Haas team is owned by Gene Haas, who in January began a two-year prison sentence for tax evasion.
Ryan Newman, who told the Times in June that Penske Racing must improve its performance for him to re-sign for next season and beyond, could join Stewart for an all-Indiana lineup. That could make for some snarky company picnics.
There are other options. Richard Childress Racing has a prime opening in the fourth Sprint Cup car it will debut next season
And what of JGR? It'll be just fine. Kyle Busch, 23, leads Sprint Cup in points and wins (six); Denny Hamlin, 27, has four wins and 50 top 10s in 97 Cup races and qualified for the Chase for the Championship twice, including his rookie-of-the-year season in 2006; then there's another star-in-waiting, Joey Logano. The 18-year-old has competed against and beaten drivers twice his age for the past five years and has a win and three top 10s in his first four Nationwide events this season.