Gibbs: "We Didnt Let Him Go"

JOLIET, Ill. - Tony Stewart's departure from Joe Gibbs Racing wasn't a mutual decision and the two-time Sprint Cup Series champion's request to leave was granted by team owners Joe and J.D. Gibbs.

"First of all, we didn’t let him go," team owner Joe Gibbs said during a media session over the weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. "Tony came in and said he wanted to leave. I think that’s a good question. We had a contract through next year and we talked about that and my initial reaction and with J.D. (Gibbs) and all of us was that we’d race through next year. I think the more we talked it over with ourselves, with Tony and with Home Depot – Home Depot didn’t have any part of this decision, they didn’t have a choice. This was brought to a head between Tony and us."

Stewart was granted his official release by JGR earlier in the weekn and quickly announced his plans to become part-owner of the newly-renamed Stewart-Haas Racing team.

But had Gibbs and the rest of the JGR team had any say in the matter, Stewart would be behind the wheel of the No. 20 entry for some years to come.

"Actually, to be quite truthful, we would have liked this to continue with Tony," Gibbs said. "Thinking back, all the great things we’ve been able to enjoy over the last 12 years. Great victories – 32 of them. Two Cup championships. All the fun things and experiences that we’ve had together."

The future of the JGR team is not completely sealed, although speculation is that young Joey Logano will step into the No. 20 ride to replace Stewart in 2009.

But at this point, nothing is set in stone.

"I think for us, it’s probably early to say exactly what’s going to happen," Gibbs said. "I think we’re going through a process here like you mentioned. This has come on us kind of quick. Obviously we have done nothing but really think and work on this. I think it’s still early for us to be able to say exactly what’s going to happen. We’ve laid out a plan and worked very hard on it, but I think it’s pretty premature to be saying exactly what’s going to be happening with us.”

Although not ready to make a final decision on Logano or the team's future, Gibbs is confident in the young driver's ability and talent.

"I think everybody has been around him too, off the track and you kind of watch him do TV stuff and I think he’s very mature for a young guy like that," Gibbs said. "He’s got a great family. I don’t think it’s anything off the track. Obviously we have, our whole race team has been focused on what is the best thing to do towards the end of this year. We’ve had some conversations with NASCAR, too. We’re pointing towards that. As to exactly what that’s going to look like, I don’t think right now is the time to say, but we’ll be getting to it pretty quick.”

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