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Joe Gibbs: No update on Tony Stewart




BROOKLYN, Mich.

Joey Logano’s Nationwide victory at Kentucky Speedway has revived speculation about whether the 18-year-old phenom could replace Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing entry.

Logano, who won in only his third start in the developmental series, could step in for the twotime NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, who is considering leaving the team for another ride, possibly one with an ownership position attached.

“I don’t think we’ve gone in that direction,” team owner Joe Gibbs said Sunday at the Lifelock 400 at Michigan International Speedway. “We’re still hoping we get things worked out (with Stewart). You’re never quite sure and certainly where we are right now. With Tony it’s kind of hard to predict the future.”

Asked how negotiations with Stewart are going, Gibbs said, “No updates. We’re still working on things. I don’t think there’s anything to report there.”

But Gibbs did say Logano could be racing on Sundays later this year, regardless of what Stewart decides.

“We would like to get him into some Cup stuff toward the end of the year,” Gibbs said. “Now, whether we’ll be able to do it or not, we want to make sure he’s in good stuff in the right way.”

The advanced billing was there for the kid from Connecticut who has won races at every level at which he’s driven. But Gibbs said he was just hoping the expectations don’t overwhelm Logano.

“I was so concerned the first part of the year with Joey, even though we knew all of the talent and everything that he had,” Gibbs said. “I was so worried about all the pressure and everything that had been put on him.

“Our biggest concern with Joey is we knew the talent and we’re committed for the long haul.”

Logano, who had to wait to race in Nationwide until after he turned 18 late last month, already has two poles and two top-five finishes in his three starts. Gibbs said he is somewhat surprised by the fast start.

“It’s extremely hard,” said Gibbs, whose team has won 10 Nationwide races this year, including four by Stewart, three by Kyle Busch, two by Denny Hamlin and the one by Logano. “We’ve had good drivers and it’s been a struggle for us. This year we just seemed to hit it, and I’m really proud of our crew chiefs and everybody over there. We’re obviously happy for Joey.”

BAD RESULTS: Dario Franchitti probably won’t be looking forward to returning to MIS for the Cup race in August after his last two starts on the two-mile oval.

A year ago, while racing in the IndyCar Series, Franchitti walked away from a spectacular and scary crash in which his car soared high into the air upside down.

His first trip to the Michigan track for a Cup race didn’t go much better. First, despite having one of the fastest cars in practice, he wound up starting 41st when qualifying was rained out and the field was set by car owners points. In the race, his engine failed after 30 laps and he wound up finishing 43rd.

“It’s disappointing,” Franchitti said. “We broke a valve and eventually broke a piston that ended the day. It’s a real shame because our Dodge was running pretty well the first part of the race. We were coming through the field with the changes we made on our first pit stop. We felt that we easily had a top-20 car today.”

CROWD DOWN: At a track where NASCAR used to regularly draw about 160,000 spectators to its two Cup races each season, Sunday’s crowd was noticeably smaller.

There were huge gaps in the big grandstands in turns one and three and plenty of empty seats on the lower part of the main straight grandstands. The campgrounds that surround the track also appeared considerably less crowded than in previous years.

Track officials gave no crowd estimate, but published reports said up to 30,000 fewer tickets were sold than for the race last June, thanks to high gas prices and the depressed Michigan economy.


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