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Auto Racing Rumors rage of Stewart shift

Monday, July 14, 2003

By Chris Dolack, Special to the Post-Gazette

JOLIET, Ill. -- It doesn't take the Windy City to make rumors blow through a NASCAR garage like a tornado.

The path of the most recent storm led over the weekend to Chicagoland Speedway and the Chip Ganassi Racing stable.

Recent reports indicated Tony Stewart, the defending Winston Cup champion who is under contract to Joe Gibbs Racing through 2004, would join Ganassi's team, possibly as early as next year.

Although Stewart and Ganassi have a history -- Ganassi entered a car for him in the 2001 Indianapolis 500 -- Stewart ended the rumor Friday, saying he knew Gibbs wanted to re-sign him, "so I'm sure that will happen pretty soon."

As quickly as that buzz was killed, a new one emerged: Ganassi was supposedly working on a deal with John Andretti, who was fired in June by Petty Enterprises.

The rumors are fueled in part by Casey Mears' mighty struggle as a Winston Cup rookie. Yesterday in the Tropicana 400, he started a five-car chain-reaction crash before eventually going into the wall himself on lap 233.

"I read all the same rumors," said Ganassi, who also fields cars for Sterling Marlin and Jamie McMurray. "That's what they are -- rumors.

"We like the job all the guys are doing. I wouldn't be surprised if you would see all three of them back here next year."

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