Boles, IMS announce plans to build dirt track as gift to Tony Stewart

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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.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.