Tony Stewart knows he's taking a gamble by leaving NASCAR's elite Joe Gibbs Racing team to join one that usually runs in the middle of the pack.

But Stewart said Thursday that the chance to be an owner-driver for Stewart-Haas Racing beginning in 2009 was too good to pass up.

"There's no guarantees that this is going to be successful," Stewart said. "But after sitting down and evaluating what the potential of this team is, I wouldn't have made this decision if I didn't think it would be successful and if I didn't think it had the potential to be great."

Stewart will be given a 50 percent ownership stake in the team, which currently fields the No. 66 car for Scott Riggs and the No. 70 car for Jason Leffler. Both cars are outside the top 35 in owners points going into Saturday's race at Chicagoland Speedway.

"I don't think an offer like this has ever been made in this series to a driver," Stewart said.

Etc.

• Dario Franchitti said he will wait until after a meeting with Chip Ganassi today before seriously exploring other options. Ganassi shut down his Sprint Cup series team because of lack of funding. Franchitti will drive for Ganassi's Nationwide series team today at Chicagoland.

• Dale Earnhardt Inc. has decided to appeal the penalties issued this week to its No. 1 Chevrolet Sprint Cup team, NASCAR officials said. Crew chief Kevin Manion and car chief Gary Putnam each were suspended for six races after the car failed pre-qualifying inspection last week at Daytona. Manion was fined $100,000 and driver Martin Truex Jr. and car owner Teresa Earnhardt each were docked 150 points.

FROM NEWS SERVICES