Former Verizon IndyCar Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, Tony Stewart, has stated that he would consider returning to the Indianapolis 500 next year so long as he feels he would be competitive enough to win the race. The forty-seven-year-old has recently been rumoured to be pursuing a potential IndyCar return, seventeen years after last racing in the series.
Stewart, who retired from full-time racing in 2016 but still competes in dirt track racing on occasion, was attending the unveiling of the 2019 Ford Mustang NASCAR Cup Car at the manufacturer’s world headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan when the subject of his potential Indy 500 return came up with reporters.
Tony would go on to state that he would only return if he felt sure that he could be in contention for the win, saying that he would not want to be a “sideshow” like he felt his former Stewart-Haas Racing driver Danica Patrick was when she made a return earlier this year.
“I’ve been there and ran it. If I go, I’m not going just to run it,” Stewart said on Wednesday. “I don’t want to be a sideshow like Danica [Patrick] was at Indy this year. If I go, I want to go feeling like I’ve got the same opportunity to win that everybody else in the field does.”
Before Stewart entered NASCAR – where he would go on to win three championships as a driver and two as a team-owner – he had a successful career in single-seaters; his biggest achievement being the 1997 IndyCar Series championship victory.
In his twenty-six IndyCar starts, Stewart claimed three race wins and seven podium finishes; including a second place finish in his first race at Walt Disney World Speedway in 1996. His NASCAR Cup Series debut came shortly thereafter in 1999, but he would return for the Indianapolis 500 later that year and again in 2001.
Stewart has raced five times in the Indianapolis 500 over his career, but he was never able to get to victory circle. He started on pole position for his first attempt at the race in 1996, but his best finish of fifth place would come a year later in 1997.
Despite having so many other accolades to his name, Stewart seems keen to add an Indy 500 victory to his record. However, Tony went on to say on Wednesday that if a potential Indy 500 drive came to fruition, he would want to run at least one IndyCar race beforehand to get his eye in and to have as good a chance as possible to compete with those who race the entire season.
“It’s an insult to the guys that do it every week to show up and think that you’re going to be as good as those guys are,” Tony said, “They’re on their game, they know their cars. They know how they need their cars to feel in practice to be good for the race. It’s foolish to think you can just show up and be competitive and have a shot to win.
“If I were going to do that, I would definitely want to run at least one race [before Indy]. One race may not even be enough to be where you need to be. If I do it, I’m doing it because I want to win the race.”
The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series will return to action next week with the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, August 19.