Tony Stewart’s roots are in dirt track racing, on short ovals, and in any of sprint cars, midgets or Silver Crown cars.
And as the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion prepares to depart from that series this year, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is set to welcome “Smoke” home next month with a return to those roots.
IMS track president J. Douglas Boles outlined plans on Tuesday night, which were revealed on “Trackside” with the Indianapolis Star‘s Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee on 1070 The Fan AM in Indianapolis, to build Stewart a 3-16th mile dirt track at Turn 3 on the infield of the Speedway. More is also available here from the Star.
“We wanted to do something a little bit different,” Boles told Cavin on the show (this segment starts about the 30-minute mark, linked here). “We made a decision before he won (at Sonoma) – and I talked to Tony on Friday as we were driving Friday night – I said, ‘How’s your weekend going?’ He said, ‘Not good, we’re not competitive at the moment.’
“We decided what better thing to do for Tony Stewart, than to take his passion and bring it to the Speedway? I’ve worked with Kevin Miller and Levi Jones – who was an unbelievable driver in his own right and drove for Tony Stewart – and they came out to race track with Brent Allen of our facility.
“They’ve laid out, which by July 5, will be a 3/16 mile dirt oval inside Turn 3, and we’ll invite some of Tony’s best buddies who are still in midgets an sprint car racing, let them come out, to watch him do what he loves to do the best at the track he loves the most. We think it’ll be a great opportunity for media to talk to Tony, and put Tony in that mood around of what he loves most, open wheel cars on short dirt tracks.”
Whether Stewart actually drives that day is entirely up to him, and the at-the-moment temporary oval – dirt of which is being brought into the Speedway starting today – could well be used further down the road.
“We’ll remove it before the Brickyard (400), but part of me says, if this works really well, maybe we oughta have a short dirt track or two at the Speedway!” Boles told Cavin.
“Let’s have some fun with Tony and give him a day with something he loves to do.”
Stewart starred in open-wheel racing, having moved into the Indy Racing League in 1996 when that series began after his growing up on dirt tracks, before moving into NASCAR full-time in 1999.
With this his last full-time NASCAR season, he’s set for a return to the land of dirt on a more regular basis next year. And this will serve as one heck of a retirement gift.