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If Tony Stewart enters Indy 500, he’d have warm-up race at Pocono first

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Tony Stewart on Wednesday may have taken one step closer to making a return to racing in the Indianapolis 500.

Or not.

Stewart was at Texas Motor Speedway as part of his annual “Smoke Show” fantasy driving camp.

As usual, Stewart took time out to speak with local Dallas/Fort Worth media. One of the questions posed to him was whether he would still one day return to race in the Indy 500.

Stewart said he likely would run an IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway the year before he’d even attempt the Indy 500, so that he could get up to speed in the open-wheel cars on a high-speed oval.

“Pocono is what we talked about doing if we’re going to do this,” Stewart said. “We are going to at least run the Pocono race. That way when May came around, I’d at least be up to speed not trying to learn a whole race car again and a whole new system all over.

“I don’t want to do like Danica Patrick. I don’t want to be a side show with the 500. I mean I would want to do it because I want to feel like I legitimately have a shot when I show up on the first day. I want to feel like I have a shot to win the race.

“Those guys are so competitive in that series right now. You’re not just going to show up like you could 20 years ago, jump in a car and go out there and be up to speed with those guys. I mean they’re on top of their game so if it happens, I mean we would definitely run at least run one oval race before the 500.

“Pocono is what we had kind of figured was the best scenario because that’s kind of the same package that you run at (IMS) so if we were going to do it, you’d probably see us run Pocono the year before.“

Do the math and that means Stewart MAY potentially race next year at Pocono and then MAY race at Indy in 2020 – at the very earliest.

Again, there’s nothing definite or confirmed. Don’t go buying your tickets just yet.

But IF Stewart were to run at Indy in 2020, he’d be 49 years old and it would be 19 years since his last appearance in the 500.

Stewart isn’t short of potential suitors that would be interested in fielding a car for him in the Indy 500.

“I actually talked to somebody from Rahal Letterman (Lanigan Racing) yesterday so I don’t know,” he said. “We’re talking about it and it’s not necessarily who we’d be doing it with. I mean we’ve talked to Andretti; we’ve talked to obviously Penske. I still got an open offer with him which is pretty cool and I think Chip (Ganassi) would want me to come back and do it again with him if we had the opportunity.”

Stewart has made five career appearances in the Indy 500, the last time being 2001. His record in his first three attempts in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing: 24th in 1996 (started on the pole), 5th in 1997 (started on the middle of the first row) and 33rd in 1998.

In both 1999 and 2001, Stewart took part in the “double,” racing both at Indianapolis in the afternoon and flying to Charlotte to race in the NASCAR Cup event the same evening.

In 1999, he finished 9th at Indy and was 4th at Charlotte, while in 2001 he finished 6th at Indy in 2001 and was 3rd at Charlotte. He is the only driver to ever complete both ends of “the double.”

Tony Stewart during  his last appearance in the Indianapolis 500 in 2001. Photo: Robert Laberge/AllSport

Stewart has made 18 starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, with wins in 2005 and 2007, seven top-5 and 11 top-10 finishes.

As for racing at Pocono, Stewart – who retired from NASCAR Cup racing after the 2016 season – made 36 career NASCAR Cup starts at the 2.5-mile “tricky triangle,” with two wins, 13 top-5 and 24 top-10 finishes.

However, Stewart has never raced an IndyCar at Pocono in his career.

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OLDEST DRIVERS IN INDY 500 HISTORY

In case you’re wondering, Stewart would not be the oldest driver to ever compete in the Indy 500. His hero, four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt, made his last appearance at Indy in 1992 at the age of 57.

Gordon Johncock (1992) and Mario Andretti (1994) both were 54 in their last go-round at Indy. Another four-time Indy 500 winner, Al Unser, was one day short of his 54th birthday when he competed in the 1993 500.

Lynn St. James was also 53 when she raced in the 2000 500. Johnny Parsons was 52 in 1996, Gary Bettenhausen was 51 in 1993, while Lloyd Ruby (1977), Johnny Rutherford (1987) and Buddy Lazier (2017) were 49 in their final Indy 500s.

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Adam Enticknap paves the way for the ‘Other 19’

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Once the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season kicks off in Anaheim, Calif. on January 4, eyes inevitably will begin to focus on the front of the field.

One rider will win that race. Two will stand on either side of him on the podium. Nineteen others will ride quietly back to the garage and if they’re lucky, get a few minutes to tell the tale of their race to a few members of the media. On their way off the track, the other 19 will take a minute to wave to the fans in the stands.

Adam Enticknap will motion for them to follow him.

One of the most engaging riders in the sport, Enticknap not only recognizes his role as a dark horse on Supercross grid, he revels in it.

“Not everyone is going to win,” Enticknap said last week at the Supercross media sessions. “There’s only one winner on a weekend; that’s it. There can’t be more than one winner. And everyone else has got to go home and eat too.”

A recognized Hip Hop artist known for his video ‘My Bikes Too Lit’, Enticknap is bringing new fans to the track – and as a result, he is putting a spotlight on riders deeper in the field.

Last year Enticknap was coming off a broken femur that marred his SX season. He made only three Mains with a 20th in Indianapolis, 15th at Houston, and an 18th at Las Vegas. In October, he earned a career-best 14th in the Monster Energy Cup at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. He got there by being consistent in the three heats, finishing 16-15-15.

But that’s not the point for Enticknap. Yes, he wants to win but it is just as important to be the ambassador for those riders who are known only to their fans.

“I’ve made a path for riders that are not going to win,” Enticknap said. “And that’s not saying that I don’t want to win, or that I’m not going to win, but I’ve made it so that the guy who’s finishing 20th and barely making the Mains can make a full career out of it. I’m probably the most famous, slowest guy on the track. It’s come from the way I’ve marketed myself and the way I’ve been with my fans and I’ve appreciated every second that I’ve been here.”

On a good weekend, Enticknap is one of the “other 19” in the Main Event.

“Without all of us, there really is no winner. Everybody’s got to show up and everybody’s got to compete during the weekend. In our sport, everyone is so hyper-focused on the guy who is winning all the time, but I hope that I’ve opened people’s eyes that sometimes it’s not just about the guy who wins the race as much as it is about the guy who is succeeding during the weekend.”

For Enticknap, success looks different than for last year’s champion Cooper Webb or Eli Tomac who won six of the 17 races in 2019. It’s about knowing that when it’s time to ride back to the hauler – whether that is at the end of the Main or after a Last Chance Qualifier – that nothing was left on the track.

“My best finish was a 14th at the Monster Energy Cup – ever in my career,” Enticknap emphasized. “Making my way from the bottom is huge. I made my way from not even making the top 40 to finishing 14th in A-Main Event. That’s huge.”

And that’s progress.

In his second season with H.E.P. Motorsports, Enticknap predicts he will make 10 Mains this year.

Even if he advances to only half of the Features, it will be his best season in eight years at this level. Enticknap qualified for seven Mains in 2017 with a best of 18th at Vegas. He was in five Mains in 2018 with a best of 16th at San Diego before signing with his current team – and getting injured without rightly being able to show what he could do with them.

“I want to break into the top 10 – that’s my goal for the year – but as of right now I’m succeeding in all the little goals that I’ve set and I want to keep succeeding,” Enticknap said.

It’s not enough to want to finish well, however; riders have to visualize a path to success. For Enticknap, that will come with because of how he approaches stadium races. Towering over the field, Enticknap is not a small man by anyone’s measure so it’s ironic that he makes a comparison between Supercross and ballet. The indoor season is about precision, technical mastery, and finesse. And that is where Enticknap believes he shines.

“Supercross is more of a ballet. It’s more perfection. It’s something that takes so much talent – and you can see it in real life. When you watch an outdoor race, you’re like ‘that guy’s a beast’; he’s manhandling it; he’s hammering the throttle. And when you see a Supercross race it’s just so rhythmic and flowing and light. So much finesse on everything. Just such a fluent, technical race.”

Enticknap credits his background in BMX racing as one of the reasons why he is so fluid on a tight track.

“Supercross fits my riding style a lot,” Enticknap said. “I don’t like to just hang it out and get all sideways and just swap, swap, swap. I like to be very precise in all my movement. I’m a perfectionist. It helps in Supercross because everything is just timed by the millisecond.”

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