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Stewart’s early departure

    Tony Stewart has been released from the final year of his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing. This is his last season in the No. 20 Toyota before becoming part owner of a mediocre Sprint Cup team.
    Sponsor Home Depot is not going with him and neither is long-time crew chief Greg Zipadelli.
    Perhaps his early exit from his racecar on Sunday when he was feeling sick was a precursor to this week’s announcements.
    Stewart might have confused Zipadelli when he radioed he wanted out because he was too sick to drive.
    Zippy responded over the team’s two-way radio: "Are you sure? Are you sure?"
    Maybe static on the radio had Zippy thinking Stewart was talking about wanting out of his contract, which was to run through 2009.
    Well, Stewart got out of the car and his contract.
    Stewart is scheduled to give details of his plans around 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Sirius (Channel 128) satellite radio and Speed TV (Digital 329) will break from their regular schedules to report on the live news.

    NASCAR team sponsorships are in big jeopardy when a sponsor drops Dale Earnhardt Jr.
    The U.S. Navy — as in this country’s collection of really big, gray ships — announced it would not return next year to sponsor Junior’s JR Motorsports No. 88 team in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
    The Navy had backed the team since 2005, and driver Brad Keselowski this year gave the sailors their first NASCAR win.

    Kalitta Motorsports plans to return its Funny Car team to the NHRA circuit this summer once it knows what caused the June 21 crash that killed driver Scott Kalitta.
     One condition on replacing Scott is that no driver who submitted a resume before his funeral will be considered, according to CompetitionPlus.com.
    Another tragic accident involved Scott’s father, Connie Kalitta, this week.
    Two weeks after his son died in a Funny Car crash at an NHRA national event in Englishtown, N.J., one of Kalitta’s 747 cargo planes crashed near Bogota, Colombia, killing two people on the ground. None of the eight crew members were seriously injured.
    The jet crashed Monday while shipping flowers from Colombia to Miami.
    Another Kalitta-operated Boeing 747 crashed and broke apart in Brussels, Belgium, on May 25. The five crew members were slightly injured.

    From The Associated Press:
    Dario Franchitti will be back behind the wheel in a NASCAR race this weekend when he races in the Nationwide Series at Chicagoland Speedway.
    Franchitti will pilot the No. 40 Dodge for Chip Ganassi Racing. Ganassi shuttered Franchitti’s Sprint Cup Series team last week because of a lack of funding, leaving the 2007 IndyCar Series champion’s future in doubt.
    But Ganassi has sponsorship for his Nationwide car, and is giving Franchitti the option to drive that until they figure out a long-term plan. Bryan Clauson drove the car last weekend at Daytona International Speedway, winning his first career pole.
    This will be Franchitti’s first NASCAR start at Chicago, where he does have three IndyCar starts. He wrapped up the 2007 IndyCar Championship there last season by starting from the pole and winning the season finale.

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