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Tony Stewart dealing with sponsorship issues as team owner

As NASCAR team owner driver Tony Stewart has “lot more gray hair than I used have.” | Getty Images

As a NASCAR team owner and driver, Tony Stewart has “a lot more gray hair than I used to have.” | Getty Images

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At Chicagoland
Speedway, Joliet

Tickets are available by calling 888-629-RACE (7223)


• Parking lots open, 7 a.m.

• Gates open, 9

• Nationwide qualifying, 11:05

• Sprint qualifying, 12:40 p.m.

• Dollar General 300, 2:30, ESPN2


• Parking lots open, 7 a.m.

• Gates open, 9

• Luke Bryan infield concert, 11:15

• Sprint Cup driver introductions, 12:20 p.m.

• GEICO 400, 1, ESPN

Updated: October 16, 2012 6:12AM

There was news going around the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet on Friday that Tony Stewart was nearing a deal to get Bass Pro Shops to replace Office Depot as his primary sponsor for 2013.

When Stewart heard that, he buried his head in his hands and said he wouldn’t comment.

Such is the life of Stewart, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion and team owner of Stewart-Haas racing. His title defense as a driver and owner begins Sunday in the GEICO 400, the first race in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“I have a lot more gray hair than I used to have,” Stewart said at a personal appearance Thursday. “And I have a lot more sleepless nights and a lot less down time than I did when I was a driver.”

Since Office Depot announced two weeks ago that they were not renewing their primary sponsorship for Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart has taken on more stress than he’s already had.

Earlier in the summer, Stewart also found out that his other driver, Ryan Newman, lost his U.S. Army sponsorship. That’s two major sources of revenue that Stewart-Haas needs to replace for next year.

After Office Depot bailed, Stewart even made a pitch during driver introductions before the Atlanta race Sept. 2 saying, “We’ve got a great spot for someone now.”

Stewart is mum on his primary sponsor and all he said about Newman’s was that he and his team are “working on it.” So far the only primary sponsor locked in for 2013 is Mobil 1, on Stewart’s car, and on Danica Patrick’s No. 10. Patrick will run a full Cup schedule for Stewart-Haas next year.

“I already started in May, especially getting Danica’s team assembled,” Stewart said. “This isn’t a sport that is seasonal. It’s a 12-month-out-of-the year business.”

Stewart might have won the Cup last year in dramatic fashion when he won at Homestead-Miami and earned the title on a tiebreaker. But he made news off the track when it came out that Stewart fired crew chief Darian Grubb — before the season was even over — and allowed Grubb to stay on for the remainder of the Chase. Stewart replaced Grubb with Steve Addington and so far their team has won three races.

There was no doubt Stewart was going to have a spot in the Chase, but he couldn’t control three incidents that dropped his standing from fifth to 10th going into last week’s Richmond race. He spun out at Watkins Glen, blew an engine at Michigan and wrecked with Matt Kenseth at Bristol. After wrecking at Bristol, Stewart ceremoniously threw his helmet at Kenseth’s car as it drove by on pit road.

“We were going to be locked in regardless and the only thing that was a question was whether we stayed in the top 10 and kept our bonus points,” Stewart said. “I was more worried about trying to win and I felt like the way we ran there in the spring [where Stewart finished third] we had a good shot at wining but we weren’t quite as strong.”

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