The buzz in the garage has Earnhardt Ganassi Racing shutting down the #8 Chevy and sidelining Aric Almirola after this weekend if a sponsor doesn’t magically appear. If that happens, three contracts are affected: #1-Martin Truex Jr., Bass Pro Shops Racing and Chevy. Truex’s contract states that he must have two teammates or he can leave the team.
Bass Pro Shops has a performance clause and with Truex 28th in owner points, the #1 team is in a precarious position. Finally, Chevy can alter its support to EGR if three teams are not under the roof. The hot rumor at Martinsville last week had Truex replacing Joey Logano in the #20 Home Depot Toyota. Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs insisted Sunday and again by phone on Wednesday that “Joey’s our guy. We haven’t had any conversations with anyone,” Gibbs said. “We’d like to have someone in line by summer time, but you have to sit down, look at what partner is available, what driver is available and who would be a good fit for the team. We had #96 Hall of Fame last year and we don’t have it now. So we have room for a fourth team. We’d love to have it.”
Gibbs mentioned JGR’s plans to run the #02 Farm Bureau Toyota to race later this season. An announcement was made in January that Farm Bureau Insurance was signed for six Cup races in 2009, including being the primary sponsor for two Cup races on Denny Hamlin’s car at Darlington and Atlanta and on Logano’s car at Martinsville. A fourth team will feature Farm Bureau as the title sponsor for the fall races at LMS, Texas and Homestead. Gibbs did not believe Farm Bureau was committed to a level where it could expand as a full-time sponsor in 2010.
Truex said on Friday that he’s committed to staying the course. “When I give someone my word by signing a contract, if they keep theirs and I keep my mind, there’s no reason to ever think about doing anything else, obviously,” Truex said. “Right now, my focus is on getting this car better and moving up in the points. We’re back here where we shouldn’t be. We’ve never been back this far before and we’ve had a tough start to the year.”
As for Bass Pro Shops, if Truex does leave. don’t be surprised if the sponsor fills out Ryan Newman’s program on the #39 Chevy at Stewart-Haas Racing [US Army is there for 23 races]. That deal, which is valued between $8 million and $10 million, could go down before summer.