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

1 Comment

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.”

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.