Tony Stewart sounds off on qualifying, a rule change and his pet pig

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Tony Stewart took to the airwaves Tuesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, discussing a variety of topics, including his thoughts on group qualifying at restrictor-plate tracks, his future as a sprint car driver, a rule change for the Camping World Truck race at Eldora and why his pet pig is called Pork Chop.

Teammate Kevin Harvick, the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, joined Stewart on “Tony Stewart Live.”

Among the topics they discussed:

The Daytona 500 will feature group qualifying for the first time to set the front row and the starting lineups for the duel qualifying races.

“To be perfectly honest, I am not a big fan of that,’’ Stewart said of group qualifying at a restrictor-plate track. “It’s exciting to watch, but the thing that most don’t realize is that, first of all, you’re trying to be the last guy to come out (to get the aerodynamic advantage). Once those guys in the back get that run and make that first lap, the last thing they want to do is go ahead and run that next lap full throttle and give the guys they just passed the same opportunity.

“So what you have is guys dumping out of the throttle and closing rates that are not good at all. You can’t hardly see through the guy in from of you. If somebody does something three or four cars up there and your spotter can’t tell you about, it has a lot of potential to be, you know, bad.

“It’s qualifying. We have enough trouble wrecking cars at restrictor-plate tracks as it is. I do like the idea that it’s traditional as far as locking in the front row. I think that is something that is important. I think there’s ways that maybe in the future NASCAR could do a little different.

“I think all in all the whole qualifying format for the year was awesome. I thought that was one of the best changes and one of the easiest changes NASCAR had to make. It was a really, really good decision on their part. It brings a lot of excitement on Friday, I’m just not crazy about it at Daytona and Talladega.”

Stewart also was asked why he recently purchased the All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint car series.

“I’m not going to be in a sprint car for a while if ever again,’’ said Stewart, who was injured in a sprint car crash in 2013 and involved in a fatal sprint car incident last year. “This is a way to give back to the sport. I’m passionate about it.

“I’m really excited. I’m leaving for Florida (Wednesday) and getting ready for a good week down there in Ocala” with the series.

As for the Xfinity Series, Stewart and Harvick were asked on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio how many races they would run. Harvick said he would run 12 Xfinity races and “hopefully” some Camping World Truck races. Stewart said he had no Xfinity races planned for this season. Harvick said he also would work three Xfinity races in the TV booth.

Stewart shared some news on his show about the Eldora Truck race. Last year, 20 Trucks in the 30-Truck field were locked in. That won’t be the case this year. It was revealed on the show only five Trucks will be locked in this year.

“With only five locked-in positions, there’s a good opportunity to have more entries than we’ve ever had, if Trucks are available, because guys know they legitimately can race their way in much easier than they what they did the last two years.’’

Stewart and Harivick were asked what drivers other than Stewart-Haas Racing teammates have a chance to win the title.

“Jeff (Gordon) wants to go out on a high note,” Stewart said. “It would be crazy not to count him as a factor. Jimmie Johnson is always a factor. Dale Jr. is going to be a factory. Kasey (Kahne). I think the Penske cars were solid all year long.’’

Said Harvick: “I think Carl (Edwards) is probably going to have a lot of momentum.’’

Said Stewart: “It will be interesting to see how the restructuring at Joe Gibbs Racing has been as far as driver-crew chief combinations.’’

Stewart also got questions about his pet pig.

“The reason he’s named Pork Chop is because that was his first and final warning that if he did anything bad that that’s what he would become,’’ Stewart said. “He’s well exceeded the one warning and living to tell about it. He literally runs the show. He would be good in Washington because he’s really good at lobbying for food.’’

 

IndyCar’s Scott Dixon staying fit with new training regimen during layoff

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During a regular racing schedule, five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing would spend much of his time between races at PitFit in Indianapolis.

The highly advanced workout facility on the northwest side of Indianapolis is run by noted sports trainer Jim Leo. His clientele includes IndyCar Series drivers and other athletes in the area.

In addition to the array of workout machines, Leo’s facility also has advanced equipment to test a driver’s reaction time. These range from a board with lights that rapidly flash, and a driver has to hit the board to turn them off. There are other tests drivers do to keep their skills sharp and reaction time focused.

Times have changed, though.

Indiana is under a statewide lockdown with the exception of essential services only. Instead of going to PitFit, Dixon is working out at his home on the north side of Indianapolis.

RELATED: How is Sabres’ star Jack Eichel staying fit?

His reaction time is being tested by his wife, Emma, throwing a tennis ball at him, changing the direction with each toss.

“I’ve gone back to old school, like tennis balls and Emma can drop them or throw them,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “As long as you keep up with basic cardio and lift weights and work on the neck muscles, that’s the harder part to get ready for.

“I had already stopped going into Pit Fit last week. We had not been doing that for a while. Haven’t left the house for 13 days, now. We went to the grocery store once. The rest of the stuff has been delivered.

“We’re locked down, man, trying to do our best for everyone else.”


Dixon’s home has an impressive array of workout equipment. That allows the 39-year-old racing legend to stay fit during this extended time off that won’t end until the last week of May at the earliest.

“I have most of the stuff I need at home,” Dixon explained. “Some of the reaction stuff, the D-2s and Synaptic machines plus some of the upper-body machines, are pretty unique machines. Those are the machines that Jim Leo has at PitFit.

“As far as cycling, running, general weights, skiers and rollers, I have that at home.”

It seems like a lifetime ago when the world was normal. That was before the dreaded novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic literally sent society underground and locked in while awaiting a solution to this fatal virus.

Photo by Chris Graythen, Getty Images

Before this unexpected shutdown, Dixon would go into PitFit to work on specialized equipment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He would do the rest of his physical workout at home.

“I started skipping that when we got home before the lockdown,” Dixon said. “Before the lockdown, Jim could have stayed open because he never has more than 10 people at once.

“Typically, he would have the drivers spaced out where Tony Kanaan and I would go in at 8 in the morning, and Alexander Rossi and James Hinchcliffe would go in at 9:30, and then Zach Veach and Spencer Pigot and Charlie Kimball would go in around 11. There were only about five of us going in at once.”

Two weeks ago, Leo dropped off some equipment at Dixon’s house along with more instructions to focus on his workouts during the layoff.

Sacrifices are being made all throughout the world, including racing.

“You can’t be selfish,” Dixon said. “It sucks for the drivers, but it sucks a lot worse for a lot of other people. Luckily, the school the girls go to has e-learning. It’s school as usual on the computer from 8:30 to 3 and that has been seamless on that front.

“On a personal note, it’s nice to be home with the baby and bonding as well, and that is great. But all of us wish everything was back to normal as soon as possible.”

RELATED: Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph adjusting to ‘new normal’ for training

Dixon is the father of three, including young daughters Poppy (10), Tilly (8) and infant son, Kit.

This is a time to keep his family safe.

“You hear mixed messages about who is more at risk,” Dixon said. “Obviously, older people with underlying conditions. We’re a fairly healthy family, but still it sounds like something can trigger a pretty bad situation. It’s better to be safe than sorry so we are limiting our contact as fast as possible. The quicker everybody locks down, the quicker we will get through the situation. If we stay home, we will see a decline and hopefully get back to normal pretty quickly.

“It’s a new thing for everybody.”


For now, Dixon works out at home, while the girls continue their classes on the computer. Emma spends time with her infant son, Kit, while taking care of the family.

These days of working out at home will be important because once racing is scheduled to return, tentatively set for May 30 at Detroit, it will be flat-out, racing nearly every weekend.

There won’t be time off inbetween races.

“No, but everybody is having plenty of rest right now,” Dixon quipped. “It’s not what anybody wants. We all keep hoping everybody remains safe and healthy. It’s a difficult time for a lot of people and we’ve been very lucky that we don’t know anybody that has had an issue so far. Hopefully, that remains the same.

“Everybody is ready to go. We were ready to go at St. Pete. This will be welcomed greatly.

“Nothing is normal these days. I think what IndyCar and IMS did was probably the best of the situations. You never want to move the dates of the 500, but you always want the people to be relaxed enough they are going to come to the race, too.

“The way they have done the schedule is pretty cool. It gives them enough wiggle room now with Detroit being the kickoff. What is also fun is the July 4 doubleheader weekend at Indianapolis and St. Pete finishing the season.”

Once life returns to normal, depending on what the new normal will look like, race drivers and athletes will once again be in an area they know.

The difficult part of this, however, is nobody knows when the COVID-19 outbreak will end.

“The hard part right now is there are so many unknowns,” Dixon said. “That is what people hate. They could wrap their hands around two weeks, but it could be another six weeks. People will go crazy.

“That is what we are going through right now. The unknown. Nobody knows what the next step is.”

That is why Dixon has a message for all race fans to take these orders seriously.

“Stay safe. Stay away from people. Lock down. Get this period done with,” Dixon said. “Once we do that, hopefully we can crack on like normal, and people can find fixes and therapies. As soon as everybody bunkers down, we will get through this sooner instead of later.

“Let’s get back to normal as quick as possible and get back to racing when we can.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500