AP Photo/Shawn Chamberlin
Patrick Carpentier, middle, is sandwiched by Kurt Busch, left, and Matt Kenseth.
RICHMOND, Va. -- Toyota officials don't want to lose Tony Stewart
to another manufacturer, but they won't get involved in negotiations to keep the two-time Sprint Cup champion at Joe Gibbs Racing after his contract expires in 2009.
"We're not a company that gets in the middle between owners and drivers," Lee White, the general manager of Toyota Racing Development, said before Saturday's race at Richmond International Raceway. "If there is a manufacturer out there that is spearheading or brokering or promoting an activity like this, I can promise you it will not be Toyota.
"We don't consider that to be our role in the garage."
There has been speculation that Chevrolet is behind a move to lure Stewart, who uses the manufacturer for his Sprint car organization, to CNC Haas Racing. Part-ownership of the team also is on the table, which Stewart has acknowledged.
"I'm going to go out on a limb and say Tony really likes to win," White said. "I think Tony's best opportunity to win races, multiple races, and continue to threaten for championships is right where he is."
Haas, despite engine support from Hendrick Motorsports, hasn't won a race since it entered Cup in 2002. It has only one top-5 finish and 13 top-10s in that time.
"Tony is very valuable to Toyota," White said. "He's one of the best, if not the best well-rounded driver in North America today. He's colorful. He's flamboyant. He's done nothing but good stuff for our company.
"But if Tony elects to do something else, we're going to wish him well and do everything in our power from a technology standpoint to make him regret his decision on the winning side."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.