When — or will — Tony Stewart ever race again?

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Amidst news that Tony Stewart will not race this weekend at Bristol, as well as a grassroots campaign is building support for Stewart, including plans to stand up and cheer for him during Lap 14 (Stewart’s race car number) of Saturday night’s race at Bristol, one question still remains:

When or will Stewart ever race again?

This is strictly my opinion, but it would appear likely at the very least that Stewart will not return behind the wheel of his No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet until the current investigation by Ontario County (NY) sheriff’s deputies into the tragic sprint car accident that killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. is completed.

Sheriff Philip C. Povero said early last week that the investigation would likely take up to two weeks.

If that timing is correct, we should have some kind of conclusion and report on the tragic wreck by the early to middle part of next week.

If Stewart is found not to be culpable in the accident, it would seem one of the most logical venues for his return to racing would be the Oral-B USA 500 on Aug. 31 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Again, this is strictly speculation and my opinion.

One of Stewart’s biggest sponsors, not to mention one of his closest friends, Bass Pro Shops and company founder and president Johnny Morris, have a long history with Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Atlanta market is also very significant in Morris’ corporate structure.

If and when Stewart is going to come back to Sprint Cup racing, he’d do well to surround himself with as many friends and sponsors as he can, making Atlanta the perfect venue to do so.

Stewart and Morris have more than just a driver-sponsor relationship. They’re very close friends, fishing buddies and more. If anyone will have Stewart’s back from a sponsor’s and friend’s standpoint, Morris would be it.

What’s more, Stewart has a strong performance record at AMS: In 26 Sprint Cup starts, he has three wins, 10 top-10 and 15 top-10 finishes. He’s said many times that it’s one of his favorite tracks on the circuit.

There’s another bit of logic for Stewart to return to racing at Atlanta: if he were to come back for the final Chase qualifying race at Richmond, his presence would likely cause a significant distraction from the task at hand of naming 16 drivers to make up the expanded Chase field.

Likewise and ditto for Stewart returning to the Cup series for the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway: It would distract and detract from the beginning of NASCAR’s yearly marquee event.

That’s why Atlanta makes the most sense.

Now, granted, Stewart may very well just take the rest of the season off. If that were to be the case, it’s unlikely that any of his supporters would blame him. I know I wouldn’t.

But at the same time, what’s one of the first things doctors, psychologists and other experts advise those who’ve been involved in serious car wrecks (that oftentimes include fatalities)?

“Get back in the car and start driving again.”

That’s the same logic for Stewart. Sure, he’s obviously grieving greatly. He has not made a public statement since the morning of the Watkins Glen race, not more than 12 hours or so after the tragic incident that killed Ward.

Since then, there’s been absolutely nothing from Stewart in terms of what he’s saying, thinking or feeling. We’re left to our own devices to assume what he’s going through, how he’s mourning Ward and how he’s dealing with the resulting grief and fallout from arguably the biggest tragedy Stewart has ever known.

He’s likely keeping quiet for two reasons. First, he’s allowing the Ward family to grieve and mourn their son and brother. Even though Ward was buried last week, the wounds are still running deep – and likely will for a long, long time.

Second, it would not be a surprise that Stewart’s lawyers have advised him not to make any public statements until the crash investigation is over.

That’s a logical possibility, given that whatever Stewart might have to say could potentially be used against him in either a criminal case (if he’s charged by authorities) or civil suit.

It’s not surprising that Stewart missed the Sprint Cup races at both Watkins Glen and Michigan this past Sunday. And as much as he loves to race there, it’s equally not going to be a surprise that Stewart will once again not race at Bristol this Saturday night (just like at Michigan, Jeff Burton will replace Stewart in the No. 14 at Bristol).

But come Atlanta, if there’s any place where he’ll likely feel the most love and support of any remaining track on the circuit this season, that super-fast 1.5-mile oval will likely be the most welcoming locale for Stewart.

Some fans fear that perhaps we’ve seen the last of Stewart behind the wheel, that he’ll retire as an active driver across all racing platforms.

I disagree, nor do I see that happening.

Rather, Stewart would be well-served if he did get back in a race car again. He owes it to his fans, he owes it to his sponsors, he owes it to his company and its hundreds of employees. He also owes it to himself.

And in a way, he owes it to the memory of Kevin Ward Jr.

Whether he was killed by his own mistake or not, Ward was a racer first and foremost. If the shoe was on the other foot, I’m sure Stewart would tell Ward it was nothing more than a tragic accident and that he owed it to himself to keep racing.

It’s the same for Stewart.

That’s why Atlanta makes the most sense for his return. It’s far enough away from the original incident, it comes after the investigation result will likely be made public and a growing number of fans want to see Stewart race again.

Of course, if the investigation does find negligence or culpability on Stewart’s part, then it’s likely we’ve seen him race for the final time of his career.

Follow me on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

IndyCar results, points after 107th Indy 500

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INDIANAPOLIS — With his first victory in the Indy 500, Josef Newgarden became the first repeat winner through six race results of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season and made a move in the points.

Newgarden, who celebrated with fans in the grandstands, moved from sixth to fourth in the championship standings with his 27th career victory and second this season (he also won at Texas Motor Speedway).

The Team Penske star won his 12th attempt at the Brickyard oval, tying the record for most starts before an Indy 500 victory with Tony Kanaan (2013) and Sam Hanks (1957). Newgarden, whose previous best Indy 500 finish was third with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2016, became the first Tennessee native to win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and the first American since Alexander Rossi in 2016.

He also delivered the record 19th Indy 500 triumph to Roger Penske, whose team ended a four-year drought on the 2.5-mile oval and won for the first time since he became the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar in 2020.

Newgarden, 32, led five laps, the third-lowest total for an Indy 500 winner behind Joe Dawson (two in 1912) and Dan Wheldon (one in 2011).

The race featured 52 lead changes, the third most behind 68 in 2013 and 54 in ’16, among 14 drivers (tied with ’13 for the second highest behind 15 leaders in ’17 and ’18). Newgarden’s 0.0974-second victory over Marcus Ericsson was the fourth-closest in Indy 500 history behind 1992 (0.043 of a second for Al Unser Jr. over Scott Goodyear), 2014 (0.0600 of a second for Ryan Hunter-Reay over Helio Castroneves) and 2006 (0.0635 of a second Sam Hornish Jr. over Marco Andretti.).

It also marked only the third last-lap pass in Indy 500 history — all within the past 17 years (Hornish over Andretti in 2006; Wheldon over J.R. Hildebrand in 2011).

Ericsson’s runner-up finish was the ninth time the defending Indy 500 finished second the next year (most recently four-time winner Helio Castroneves in 2003).

Here are the IndyCar results and points standings after the 107th Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:


RESULTS

Click here for the official box score from the 200-lap race on a 2.5-mile oval in Indianapolis.

Lap leader summary

Full lap chart

Best section times

Full section data

Event summary

Pit stop summary

Here is the finishing order in the Indy 500 with starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (17) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (10) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 200, Running
3. (4) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 200, Running
4. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 200, Running
5. (7) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 200, Running
6. (6) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running
7. (8) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
8. (16) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 200, Running
9. (21) Colton Herta, Honda, 200, Running
10. (2) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (18) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (27) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 200, Running
13. (25) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 200, Running
14. (14) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (20) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 200, Running
16. (9) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 200, Running
17. (24) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
18. (32) Jack Harvey, Honda, 199, Running
19. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 198, Running
20. (13) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 197, Contact
21. (11) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 196, Contact
22. (33) Graham Rahal, Chevrolet, 195, Running
23. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 195, Running
24. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 192, Contact
25. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 192, Contact
26. (26) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 192, Contact
27. (3) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 183, Contact
28. (15) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 183, Contact
29. (23) David Malukas, Honda, 160, Contact
30. (19) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 149, Contact
31. (31) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 90, Contact
32. (28) RC Enerson, Chevrolet, 75, Mechanical
33. (29) Katherine Legge, Honda, 41, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 168.193 mph; Time of Race: 2:58:21.9611; Margin of victory: 0.0974 of a second; Cautions: 5 for 27 laps; Lead changes: 52 among 14 drivers. Lap leaders: Palou 1-2; VeeKay 3; Palou 4-9; VeeKay 10-14; Palou 15-22; VeeKay 23-27; Palou 28-29; VeeKay 30-31; Rosenqvist 32; Rossi 33-34; Palou 35-39; VeeKay 40-47; Palou 48-60; VeeKay 61-63; Rosenqvist 64-65; O’Ward 66; Power 67; Herta 68; Rosenqvist 69; O’Ward 70-78; Rosenqvist 79-81; O’Ward 82-89; Rosenqvist 90-94; Ilott 95-99; Rosenqvist 100-101; O’Ward 102; Rosenqvist 103-107; O’Ward 108-109; Rosenqvist 110-113; O’Ward 114-115; Rosenqvist 116-119; O’Ward 120-122; Rosenqvist 123-124; O’Ward 125-128; Rosenqvist 129-131; Ferrucci 132; Ericsson 133-134; Castroneves 135; Rosenqvist 136; Ericsson 137-156; Newgarden 157; Ericsson 158; Ferrucci 159-168; Ericsson 169-170; Rossi 171-172; Sato 173-174; O’Ward 175-179; Hunter-Reay 180-187;
O’Ward 188-191; Ericsson 192; Newgarden 193-195; Ericsson 196-199; Newgarden 200.


POINTS

Click here for the points tally in the race.

Here are the points standings after the GMR Grand Prix:

Drivers

Entrants

Engine manufacturers

Pit stop performance

Top 10 in points: Palou 219, Ericsson 199, O’Ward 185, Newgarden 182, Dixon 162, McLaughlin 149, Rossi 145, Grosjean 139, Power 131, Herta 130.

Rest of the standings: Lundgaard 122, Kirkwood 113, Rosenqvist 113, Ilott 111, Ferrucci 96, VeeKay 96, Rahal 94, Malukas 84, Armstrong 77, Daly 73, Castroneves 69, Harvey 65, DeFrancesco 63, Canapino 61, Pagenaud 55, Pedersen 51, Robb 47, Sato 37, Carpenter 27, Hunter-Reay 20, Kanaan 18, Andretti 13, Enerson 5, Legge 5.

Next race: The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, which has moved from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown, will take place June 4 with coverage starting on Peacock at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.