Driver seeking right combination

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SONOMA, Calif. – Tony Stewart is off to such a strong first season as a team owner, he's already open to expansion.

The Sprint Cup Series points leader said today he'd consider adding a third team to Stewart-Haas Racing next year if the right combination was available. Although he promised his team not to expand too quickly, their success so far this season has made him consider his options.

"I wanted to make sure we had two cars that were competitive and had a chance to win a championship," he said Friday at Infineon Raceway. "I'm proud of the fact that I think we're at that point. So if the right situation came along, we would entertain it."

Stewart won the All-Star Series race in May, then followed it with his first Cup points victory two weeks ago at Pocono. He's the first car owner to lead the points since the late Alan Kulwicki won the 1992 championship, and teammate Ryan Newman is fifth in the standings.

Stewart did not offer any potential drivers or sponsors that would pique his interest. Of the current free agents, Brian Vickers is not looking to leave Red Bull Racing and Martin Truex Jr. is widely believed to be headed to Michael Waltrip Racing.

That leaves Jamie McMurray as the only driver in a contract year still trying to finalize his 2010 plans.

But, Hendrick Motorsports developmental driver Brad Keselowski wants a Cup ride next season and Hendrick doesn't currently have an open seat to offer. Stewart has a technical alliance with Hendrick.

Then there's a handful of drivers – Kasey Kahne or Kurt Busch – who would potentially try to negotiate a release from the current contract for the opportunity to join SHR. Kahne and Stewart are both represented by Motorports Management Inc., which typically does not encourage its drivers from breaking their contracts.

But Stewart successfully negotiated an early release from Joe Gibbs Racing last season, and Kahne could do the same with Richard Petty Motorsports if the slumping organization doesn't turn things around.

One name Stewart isn't chasing, though, is IndyCar Series racer Danica Patrick. She's been dogged by questions about NASCAR the past few weeks, but said she'll wait until the end of the IRL season to make a decision.

Stewart said he's not following the Danica drama.

"Sorry, we don't pay attention to that stuff," he said. "Contrary to what people may think, we're pretty busy around here. We don't watch others. I have no idea. I have enough to worry about."


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