Tony Stewart: ‘It’s going to be a long time before you see me in a sprint car again, if ever’

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Tony Stewart and sprint cars have been literally joined at the hip for the better part of his racing life.

It’s where he finds solitude, clears his head of pressing business and personal concerns and is the only way he knows how to get back to why he began racing in the first place: for the sheer love and enjoyment of it.

It would not have been surprising to many if Stewart gave up sprint car racing after suffering a severely mangled and broken leg in an August 2013 crash, the worst wreck of his entire racing career on any level.

Yet less than three months ago, Stewart came back to the world he goes to when he wants to get away from the other world where he’s a star.

His August 9 race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, which resulted in the tragic death of fellow racer Kevin Ward Jr., was only the fourth sprint car race Stewart had competed in since climbing back into the often unpredictable vehicles for the first time just a month earlier.

In an interview with The Associated Press, his first wide-ranging discussion with any media outlet since the Ward tragedy, that fateful wreck may very well wind up being the last time we see Stewart in a sprint car any time soon – if ever again.

“I would say it’s going to be a long time before you ever see me in a sprint car again, if ever,” Stewart told AP writer Jenna Fryer. “I don’t have any desire at this moment to get back in a (sprint) car.

“If I had the option to go right now to a race, I wouldn’t. I don’t even know when I’ll go to a sprint car race again to watch. I can promise you it’s going to be a long time before you ever see me back in one.”

Stewart has a long record of philanthropy to the racing world. He’s contributed several million dollars in the last decade to Victory Junction Gang Camp, which was established to honor the life of Adam Petty, grandson of NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty and son of former driver turned TV analyst Kyle Petty.

Adam Petty was killed in a wreck while practicing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2000.

Stewart loves dirt racing so much that he owns several teams and even purchased – some might say he financially rescued – Eldora Raceway in Ohio nearly a decade ago and quickly and extensively upgraded it to arguably one of the finest dirt tracks in the country.

Yet Stewart doesn’t want his benevolence to be publicized, for the most part. He does it because he feels it’s the right thing to do, particularly with some of the money he’s given and equipment he’s purchased for fellow sprint car drivers over the years.

Now, though, because of both his broken leg incident and the Ward tragedy, Stewart has been vilified by many who say he should only do his racing in his day job in NASCAR.

“It’s hurt for 16 months to sit and be scrutinized for it,” Stewart told Fryer, adding. “and to try to give back to a sport that you love, and every time you turn around, you’ve got to constantly defend yourself for doing something and trying to support something that you believe in and care about.”

There’s no question that sprint car racing is one of Stewart’s greatest loves and joys, and will continue to be – even if it means he never gets behind the wheel on another dirt track again in his life.

“I went to go have fun for a night (at Canandaigua), and that’s not what ended up happening,” Stewart said.

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Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”