Tony Stewart ‘competing’ in this year’s Chili Bowl — on a tractor

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If you’ve been to the Chili Bowl this week and saw a familiar-looking guy dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and a ballcap, riding a tractor to help smooth over the racing surface, you have a good eye.

Three-time Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart, also an ardent sprint car racer, team owner and downright fan, has been in Tulsa this week in one of the most unusual roles of his three-decade racing career.

Instead of doing something more along the lines of maybe being the event’s grand marshal or an honorary official, Stewart is getting his hands dirty – and loving it.

Yep, that guy on the tractor is Stewart, one of four individuals along with Wes Smith, Martin Edwards and Brad “Gravel” Chandler that are charged with keeping the surface smooth and racey.

(Click here to see a local Tulsa TV interview with Stewart about his new job)

The foursome go out several times throughout the day’s racing to make sure things look good. And there’s no better judge than Stewart – it takes a racer to know what a racer wants, especially on a dirt track.

Stewart is no stranger to driving a tractor. He does it on a regular basis at the dirt track he owns in Rossburg, Ohio, namely, Eldora Speedway, arguably one of the best dirt short tracks in the country.

A two-time Chili Bowl winner (2002 and 2007), Stewart is unable to race in this year’s event because he’s still recovering from off-season surgery to clean up issues from the August 2013 sprint car wreck he had in Iowa.

But that doesn’t keep him from driving the tractor, which speeds around the track at the exhaustive speed of 10 mph.

Tops.

“There are four of us here (on the track crew) who can absolutely destroy this week,” Stewart told USA Today. “If one of us screws this thing up, we could have a bunch of people mad at us in one night. It’s like any other race track. The guys who prep it don’t get enough credit. This is just as competitive as working on the cars.

“The guy who runs the grader here — I’ve never seen anybody better. This track stuff is real soft. You can take a key and scratch through the top, it’s so soft. But to be as precise as he is with that blade — it’s sexy to watch.”

His task this week has made for some long days, but as he says in the following tweet, but Stewart couldn’t be happier.

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IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.