Joe Gibbs Racing is negotiating to bring Chevrolet back next season and might be talking with Dale Earnhardt Jr. to come along for the ride.
No doubt, there's been plenty going on behind the scenes at Joe Gibbs Racing over the past week, and team officials have stayed tight-lipped on all the swirling speculation.
From the possible signing of Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's hottest free agent, to overtures made by Toyota, racing team president J.D. Gibbs has plenty to consider over the next few weeks.
If Gibbs is serious about bringing Junior into the fold, well, he's not saying. JGR Racing is believed to be in the thick of the hunt to sign Earnhardt Jr., though Gibbs said on Sunday he had not yet talked to NASCAR's most popular driver.
Earnhardt Jr.'s sister, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, is handling contract talks and had set an end of June deadline to get a new deal done, if not sooner.
"For Kelley and Dale, we're just going to give them time to look at their program, and we're going to focus on our program right now to make sure we're on top of our game week in and week out," Gibbs said.
Without naming teams, Earnhardt Jr. said on Friday that he's visited some of the top teams in NASCAR. Gibbs declined to comment if JGR is one of the teams that Earnhardt Jr. visited.
But Earnhardt Jr. also said he wants to keep driving Chevys, so that certainly would give JGR every reason to stay with the manufacturer. So if Chevy stays, does that make JGR a clear front-runner?
"To be honest, we're not far along into going into that," Gibbs said. "He's made it clear that's part of what he's looking for."
Gibbs also refused to say if he's even talked with Toyota. JGR's contract with GM is up at the end of the year, and Gibbs said they've just started the re-negotiation process.
"I can't really say much," Gibbs said. "We're in the process of just sitting down with GM last week and we have their proposal. We're going to go over that. Really, that's where we are right now, just reviewing it."
They had a few extra hours to review the proposal on Sunday if they wanted after heavy rain forced NASCAR to push back a Nextel Cup race for the third time in the last four points races. The Autism Speaks 400 at Dover International Speedway will start at noon on Monday.
Ryan Newman and Earnhardt Jr. will start on the front row at the Monster Mile. Points leader Jeff Gordon starts sixth.
Hendrick Motorsports has won five straight races and nine in the past 10 Nextel Cup races.
The Car of Tomorrow will make its sixth appearance Monday in a Nextel Cup race, and it could get perhaps its toughest test yet on the concrete mile oval, high-banked track.
"I think that this car is kind of an unknown to a lot of us," Gordon said.
Almost as uncertain as where Junior will land.
"I have to tell everybody I am in discussions with to give me like three days to decipher things," he said. "I wish I could be more proactive and prompt, but I really want to think about it and make sure I'm not going to leave a base uncovered."
Should JGR sign with Toyota, that could be a deal breaker for Junior. Then again, Earnhardt Jr. also wants to keep Budweiser as his sponsor, and Gibbs was adamant again that Bud is not for them.
"Just a lot of personal reasons, a lot of issues my dad (Joe Gibbs) has, it would be hard to do it," Gibbs said. "It wouldn't work. Again, they're a great part of our sport, a great partner for us. Personally, that'd be hard to do."
Joe Gibbs Racing already has a sponsorship deal with Starter, which is owned by Nike.
JGR already fields cars for Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley, and the team is not ready to become a four-car operation in 2008.
That could be dicey for Yeley, who scored a career-best second-place finish last week in the Coca-Cola 600.
Gibbs and the JGR officials like Yeley and have invested a lot in him, and they'd desperately like for him to find success at their organization. But his contract is up at the end of the season and he could be running out of time to show results.
While Stewart and Hamlin are both in top 10 of the Chase, Yeley is 15th.
Perhaps Yeley could find a spot with Hall of Fame racing, owned by former Dallas Cowboys greats Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. JGR has a loose affiliation with the Cowboys crew and it could send Yeley there to make room for Earnhardt Jr.
Toyota, which has struggled this year in its rookie season in Nextel Cup racing, wants to become a major player in the stock car scene and would love to form an association with one of the heavyweights like JGR.
"The more healthy competitors you have in the sport, the better it is," Gibbs said. "The more healthy manufacturers that you bring to the sport, I think it's good for our sport. Period. I think they're an important part of the sport."
An important part, for sure, but now all JGR might have to decide is if it's more important than signing Earnhardt Jr.