Tony Stewart postpones Indy 500 return; Rahal offered him a ride

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Tony Stewart’s dream of returning to the Indianapolis 500 remains very much alive, but he might be hitting the brakes on next season despite already having an offer.

In an interview with Rutledge Wood (video above) during Sunday’s rain delay at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Stewart said he has been emailed by IndyCar team owner Bobby Rahal about running one of his cars in the Greatest Spectacle of Racing next season.

“And I don’t do emails, so I haven’t even responded to Bobby Rahal yet, so I just found out I had an email from him,” Stewart said, pausing to turn to the camera with a smile. “Sorry Bobby, I don’t do email.”

The delayed response is OK because Stewart seems to be taking himself out of the running already for 2019 after indicating a month ago that he was ready to return to the Indianapolis 500 after an 18-year absence.

“Not this coming year,” he said. “I did what I normally do, I let my mouth open before I thought about what I was saying and mentioned that I was open to the possibility again, and I realistically am.

“The reason I wouldn’t do it next year, I’m not doing it to just do it. I want to do it to try to win the race. If you’re really going to do that, the IndyCar Series is so competitive right now, and the drivers and teams so tough, you’re not going to just stroll in here like they used to do in the ’70s and ’80s and do a good job. I’d want to run an oval race sometime in the coming year to get ready for 2020 if I’m going to do it.

Stewart, who was born and raised in Indiana and lives about an hour south of Indianapolis in Columbus, also said he had talked with team owner Michael Andretti and noted that Roger Penske recently said his offer to drive one of his cars in May remained open.

He also believes team owner Chip Ganassi (who fielded Stewart in the 2001 Indy 500, his most recent start) would give him another shot.

The three-time NASCAR champion, who will turn 48 next May, won the 1997 IndyCar championship and has five starts in the Indianapolis 500. In 1999 and ’01, he raced both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.

“I’ve learned to never say never, but you keep doing the math, and I’m pretty sure 49’s probably not a good age to try to resurrect an IndyCar career, but who knows, I’ve done a lot dumber things than that.”

New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

James Black/IndyCar
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Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

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