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Stewart says his Martinsville quip wasn't a challenge to Edwards

Perhaps someday Tony Stewart will call up Eddie Gossage and ask for the name of his graphic designer. Maybe there will be an upcoming World of Outlaws show that the owner of Eldora Speedway thinks is just begging for the type of sizzle the president of Texas Motor Speedway so enjoys.

Maybe Stewart could just have one of his employees computer-crop his and Carl Edwards' silhouettes from the boxing tale of the tape poster Gossage has plastered on TMS's media site on Wednesday and will certainly drape around the track this weekend for the third-to-last race of the Sprint Cup season.

Gossage, who has seized upon friction between drivers -- Danica Patrick and the late Dan Wheldon -- and family members -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his stepmother and former car-owner, Teresa -- as promotional opportunities, groped a bit harder this weekend in trying to turn Stewart's quip of confidence -- "Carl Edwards better be real worried" -- following a win at Martinsville on Sunday into something resembling spectacle. Mainly, Stewart said, because there's nothing there and both drivers realize it.

"I think everybody is smart enough to see what he's doing," Stewart said. "I don't know what is being done with it this week. Eddie is a good promoter. Eddie is one of the promoters I actually call when I have a question about something. We've been good friends for a long time. He knows how to promote and that is part of running races. You have to know how to put people in the stands when you're running races at your speedway."

Stewart said there was never any challenge issued to Edwards, just a declaration of confidence following a rousing pass on the outside for a win within the confines of the half-mile paper-clip-shaped Martinsville track.

"From the moment I said that, there was no disrespect issued, and [Edwards] knows that," Stewart said. "I was excited about my run, and basically my statement -- it was a statement, it wasn't a challenge. The challenge word came out a lot. I don't remember saying 'I challenge you' to anything. I made the statement to not overlook us. If you're not considering us a factor, you're making a mistake, basically.

"It's not even blowing off steam. That's the emotion in me that came out. I was happy about our run, the way we were able to overcome where we were after the first 200 laps, to rebound and have a chance to win the race, especially to win it in the fashion like that. Nobody I've talked to can ever remember somebody passing on the outside for the lead to win at Martinsville. To me, it made a statement about where we are with ourselves and our organization. ... [I]f there were three guys ahead of us in the points, I would have said it to all three of them. It wasn't so much directed at Carl, so much as whoever's ahead of us better not count us out. We're coming."

Edwards, the points leader with an eight-point margin over Stewart, seemed to be having fun with the non-situation also, quipping at an event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte that Stewart was one of his racing heroes as a child.

If only Gossage had gone a little deeper into Stewart and Edwards' relationship, perhaps he could have found some embers still smoldering. In 2006, after being caught up in Stewart's retaliatory wrecking of Clint Bowyer at Pocono, Edwards declared, "If it weren't for respect of the sport and the people watching and his team and everything, he'd be out there bleeding right now." Stewart then likened Edwards to Leave it to Beaver character Eddie Haskell, as in a fake, and declared on his satellite radio show the Edwards should be ready to back up any threats regarding his blood.

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Former IndyCar driver Danica Patrick will announce her 10-race Sprint Cup schedule with Stewart-Haas Racing during a news conference on Friday at TMS. Patrick, who just completed her seventh open-wheel season, finishing 10th in points for the second straight year, will contest a full Nationwide season in 2012 with JR Motorsports, the team with which she has made her transition to NASCAR the past two years. Patrick has three top-10s and a top-five in 22 Nationwide starts, becoming the highest, female finisher in the sanctioning body's history with a fourth-place result at Las Vegas this spring.

Patrick's GoDaddy sponsor will fully fund all of her Cup events, but SHR, which added Quicken Loans for nine races on Ryan Newman's No. 39 Chevrolet, has not secured money to add a third car full-time. Stewart said Patrick the driver, not Patrick the sponsor-generator, was the reason to add the part-time car, which has in turn prompted some logistical challenges in finding crewmen.

"I don't financially have to add a third car or anything like that," Stewart said. "We could very easily stay a two-car team. Obviously, it takes money to fund that car. If you can fund it and you believe in that person, then it makes sense.

"You get people all day long who come up and say 'I've got money. I've got sponsorship.' But it doesn't mean that you believe in the job they can do behind the wheel. But Danica is somebody we feel like can get the job done. We wouldn't have hired her if we didn't think she could do what she is wanting to do and accomplish behind the steering wheel. It could be a disaster to do it for any other reason but that because it could distract from what you're trying to do with your other cars."

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