NASCAR: Stewart as calm as ever
TALLADEGA, Ala. ó So often tempestuous, Tony Stewart was the picture of perfect calm Friday as he strolled through the garage without a care.
And why wouldn’t he be at peace? NASCAR’s two-time champion is back on top, soaking up the spotlight not only for winning poles ó which he did for this weekend’s Aaron 312 ó but as a highly coveted free agent who has triggered a bidding war that could lure him away from Joe Gibbs Racing.
His contract with Gibbs doesn’t even expire until after the 2009 season, but Stewart is fielding so many enticing offers, he likely can’t keep them all straight. He said he was presented with another option Friday morning, giving him two new offers in the past 24 hours.
“It’s very humbling and I feel very honored to be in a position that we have that many organizations interested in me as a driver,” Stewart said.
But all the attention on Stewart has put his team under scrutiny, again, as it seeks its first victory at Talladega Superspeedway. Stewart has finished second at the track a maddening six times, and Talladega remains one of just four tracks where the team has not won.
Crew chief Greg Zipadelli wants nothing more than to cross Talladega off the list on Sunday, but must do so as an entire industry wonders if the team can once again handle another drama created by Stewart.
Zipadelli seemed confident the team he assembled 10 years ago is strong enough and has weathered enough to survive Stewart being pulled by outside interests.
“Dude, we’ve stuck with him through punched photographers, people being run over ó it is what it is,” Zipadelli joked about Stewart’s many transgressions. “Here’s the deal, it’s really simple: Home Depot. The 20 car. Tony Stewart. Greg Zipadelli. We’re here ’til 2009.
“We’ve all had opportunities to go do things. I’ve had them, he’s had them, he obviously has another one that sounds like a great opportunity for himself and his future.”