Tony Stewart won’t appear in Indy 500 after NASCAR retirement

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When asked during his NASCAR retirement announcement Wednesday whether he could be expected to make another run at the Indianapolis 500, Tony Stewart gave a definitive answer.

“No.”

The three-time Sprint Cup champion will retire from the series following the 2016 season, but while saying he’s not retiring from racing, he closed the door on making his first appearance in the Indy 500 since 2001.

Stewart, 44, made five appearances in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” from 1996 to 2001, racing for John Menard. Tri-Star Motorsports and Chip Ganassi. He earned the pole in the 1996 race before finishing 24th with engine problems.

In those five starts, the native of Columbus, Ind., and 1997 Indy Racing League Champion led 122 laps and earned his best finish, fifth, in 1997.

In 1999 and 2001, Stewart attempted the “Double” of racing in “500” and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Tony Stewart preparing for his last Indianapolis start in 2001 with Chip Ganassi racing. Mandatory Credit: ROBERT LABERGE/ALLSPORT
Tony Stewart preparing for his last Indianapolis start in 2001 with Chip Ganassi racing.
Mandatory Credit: ROBERT LABERGE/ALLSPORT

In the press conference at Stewart-Haas Racing headquarters, Stewart was asked if he regrets not taking an offer from Roger Penske in 2012 to drive one of his cars in the Indy 500. The answer also revealed other career opportunities Stewart turned down.

“There’s days I wonder if I should have taken Penske’s offer to run the 500, there’s days I wonder if I should have back in ’96 at the end of the year taken Rick Hendrick’s offer to drive the 25 car (in the Sprint Cup),” Stewart said. “There’s days that I wonder if I should have taken Barry Green’s offer to drive for Team Kool Green in the CART series. I think it’s all worked out pretty good since then, so I think we’ve made the right decisions. We’ve always trusted our gut instinct, and I don’t think it’s led us wrong yet.”

In 26 starts in the Indy Racing League, Stewart grabbed three wins, seven podiums and eight poles.

Stewart made the jump to NASCAR full-time in 1999, where he has 48 wins in the Sprint Cup series.

Stewart is the only driver to win a championship in the NASCAR’s top series and in a top open-wheel series.

“So far, but records are made to be broken, and somebody else can come along and do the same thing,” Stewart said. “It’s always a possibility. It’s neat to be the first guy to do it, but I wouldn’t venture to say I’ll be the last.”

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.