NASCAR Drafting Partner Search Continues At Talladega Superspeedway

David Gilliland and Tony Stewart won't be working together in Sunday's NASCAR race at Talladega, breaking up a pairing that has been successful in the past.

As it turns out, manufacturer Ford didn't think it was a good idea for its drivers to be pushing cars from other manufacturers – particularly those who are a threat to win the championship.

In other words, Ford didn't want to see Gilliland pushing Stewart to the front when Stewart is competing with Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth for the Sprint Cup Series title.

"We're not banned (from working together), but when you lay out your initial plans, you've got to think of the big picture," Gilliland said Saturday. "Ford does a lot for us, and we'd really like to see a Ford win this championship.

"We're here to help them just like they help us."

Gilliland will work with Front Row Motorsports teammate Travis Kvapil instead of Stewart, he said. But he wouldn't rule out drafting with Stewart at some point.

"Tony was great to work with those last couple races, and you never know what happens when we get down to the end," he said. "If something happens and he's out of a partner and something happens to Travis, we're 100 percent comfortable working together."

For Tony Stewart, now what?

Stewart was left hanging by Gilliland's decision, but he worked with Bobby Labonte during one practice on Friday and drafted with Landon Cassill in the other session.

The driver/team owner said Saturday he's "pretty sure" he'll end up pairing with either Labonte or Cassill.

Said Cassill: "Tony knows that I can push, and as long as he knows I can be a good lead car, too, maybe I'll be with him all day."

The problem with Cassill and Stewart (who worked together during Stewart's Daytona Nationwide Series win in February) is the youngster wants to run up front and the veteran likes to race Talladega from the back of the field.

"We talked about it yesterday," Stewart said. "He knows where I want to be, and I know why they want to be up front, so we'll just play it a lap at a time."

If Stewart decides to go with Labonte, Cassill said he'll likely team up with Casey Mears.

Where's Ryan Newman in all of this?

So why doesn't Stewart simply pair up with teammate Ryan Newman? The driver said there was "no reason" other than Newman prefers to run up front (like Cassill) and that doesn't mesh with Stewart's strategy.

Plus, Stewart said, Newman already has a good thing going with Denny Hamlin. And if the Stewart-Haas cars drafted together, he said there's a higher chance an accident "could take us both out."

"We've just got two different philosophies on how to do it," Stewart said. "He's had really good luck with Denny, he likes running with Denny. The biggest thing from a car owner's standpoint is I want him to run to whoever he's really comfortable with."

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