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Saturday, April 28

Contract reportedly agreed upon Friday
By Robin Miller

FORT WORTH, Texas – A story that started out as a rumor on RPM2Night two weeks ago is almost a reality. Tony Stewart will drive for Chip Ganassi in next month's Indianapolis 500.

Despite Ganassi's contention it's not a done deal, has confirmed that Stewart will be in a Target G-Force/Aurora for the 85th Indianapolis 500. A source close to the NASCAR star said the contract was agreed on Friday.

"I swear that it's not a done deal," said Ganassi on Saturday morning at Texas Motor Speedway where his team is competing in Sunday's CART Firestone Firehawk 600. "I haven't had a conversation with Tony since Talladega."

But then, in the next breath, Ganassi admitted he's still "looking at different options" for May and Stewart was a prime candidate.

Stewart, the 1997 Indy Racing League champion, vowed he'd never do the Memorial Day double (Indy and NASCAR's Charlotte 600) after trying it in 1998. He was so exhausted, he threw away what appeared to be a winning car in the Winston Cup race.

But Indy has also been Stewart's primary passion since he began running quarter midgets and he obviously realizes a ride with the defending champs might be his best shot ever. Juan Montoya scored a dominating victory for Targetg/Ganassi last May. As it stands now, rookies Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian completed their rookie tests at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this month and had further testing last week.

Both will be making their oval-track debut in Sunday's CART show here.

Ganassi approached CART veterans Jimmy Vasser and Paul Tracy earlier this month about replacing Junqueira and Minassian at the Speedway.

Tracy was game but his sponsor, KOOL, denied him permission while Vasser's fate should be decided within the next 24 hours.

"I still don't know but I think Pat (Patrick) will tell me something today or tomorrow," said Vasser.

If Vasser cannot compete, Ganassi will be faced with a major decision. Does he park one of his rookies for Stewart or run three cars?

"Three cars isn't out of the question, but that's not my preference," replied Ganassi, who's expected to have Stewart's sponsor, Home Depot, displayed somewhere on the car.

It's believed that Stewart's contract with Joe Gibbs Racing permits him to drive at Indianapolis and that Ganassi doesn't need the approval of owner 2000 Winston Cup champ Bobby Labonte.

"I'd like Joe's blessing," said Ganassi, who snatched Jason Leffler from Gibbs' Busch team this year to drive his Cup car.

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