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.

SuperMotocross set to introduce Leader Lights beginning with the World Championship finals


In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.

Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.

Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.

The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.

“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”

Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.

SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.

When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.

SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.