BALTIMORE - Could one rainy afternoon cause Tony Stewart to leave Joe Gibbs Racing?
The way things are going for the No. 20 team right now, it might happen.
After starting 28th in the LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, Stewart raced to the front, leading 138 laps on his way to what would have been his first win of the season.
Then his luck ran out â€” again.
A call for two tires on his final pit stop shuffled Stewart back in the field, so when rain arrived to end the race with just under 20 laps remaining, he watched Kurt Busch make the trip to victory lane.
For Stewart, who finished 13th, his misfortune was just another chapter in a season where nothing has seemed to go his way.
â€śWeâ€™ve just not had any luck all year,â€ť said Stewart before Sundayâ€™s race. â€śSeems like the races that we do get ourselves in good position, toward the end something bad happens and we get out of that position.â€ť
The problem â€” at least for Joe Gibbs Racing â€” is Stewartâ€™s run of bad luck is happening at the same time that his phone is ringing off the hook with opportunities to drive for other teams.
A part-ownership deal with Haas Racing reportedly has topped the list of contenders to land Stewart, but with the announcement this weekend that Hendrick Motorsports is looking to replace Casey Mears in the No. 5 car, everything became more complicated.
â€śAfter todayâ€™s announcement [at Hendrick], It may be pushed back even more now,â€ť Stewart said of his upcoming decision. â€śThereâ€™s nobody in this garage area thatâ€™s not going to look that direction â€¦ youâ€™ve got to look at that.â€ť
Opportunities abound, but Stewart already is in one of the sportâ€™s best organizations â€” and new teammate Kyle Busch is one of many who do not want to see Smoke leave.
â€śI hope he decides to stay â€” heâ€™s been a great friend and a great teammate this year,â€ť Busch said. â€śIâ€™m hoping he gets all the things worked out with JGR where he can continue to drive that 20.â€ť
Busch, who has won five times, may be contributing to Stewartâ€™s dilemma. With so much success in his first season at JGR, Busch has not only grabbed the headlines, but he also has cast a shadow over the No. 20 team that may have Stewart looking for a way out.
Is it time for Stewart to move on? Itâ€™s hard to say. For Stewartâ€™s longtime friend Dale Earnhardt Jr., leaving Dale Earnhardt Incorporated last year was the right choice, but his move was based on substandard equipment and an ongoing feud with his owner.
Stewart, however, has won two championships at Gibbs Racing. But the driver nicknamed â€śSmokeâ€ť is being forced to make a decision in the middle of an unfortunate run of bad luck â€” something that should not be a factor, but will be.
If Stewart leaves JGR, it should be for the right reasons.
After all, you canâ€™t let one rainy day ruin your season. - examiner.com
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