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Wickens’ crash may have Tony Stewart reconsidering Indy 500 return

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Tony Stewart is reconsidering a return to the Indianapolis 500 in part because of injuries Robert Wickens suffered in an IndyCar crash.

Stewart has been consistent in his desire to run at least one IndyCar race on an oval, preferably at Pocono Raceway, to acclimate himself to the car before he entered the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens suffered severe injuries in an Aug. 19 crash at Pocono that included a thoracic spinal fracture and a fractured neck.

“After Robert Wickens got hurt, I don’t know how excited I am about it anymore. You watch Robert get hurt and ask yourself if it’s really worth it.” — Tony Stewart

“After Robert Wickens got hurt, I don’t know how excited I am about it anymore,” Stewart told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday. “You watch Robert get hurt and ask yourself if it’s really worth it.”

Stewart is in his second full season of retirement as a NASCAR driver but has packed his schedule full with sprint car events. A return to his roots made the three-time NASCAR champion long for Indianapolis again.

Stewart is an Indiana native who holds the Indy 500 above all other events in the world. He won twice there in NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, but was never able to win the Indy 500 and last entered “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 2001.

Stewart has five starts in the Indianapolis 500, starting on the pole as a rookie in 1996 and leading 64 laps in a career-best fifth in 1997.

Stewart turns 49 next May and any return to Indy has been pushed to his 2020 plans. The Indy 500 is the first oval race on the IndyCar schedule, so Stewart would not get the warmup he desires in time for next year’s race.

He said he’s got “a lot of offers on the table,” but a decision likely won’t be made until midseason next year. A return to the Indy 500 could set Stewart back in sprint cars, which is what he plans to race consistently for a long time.

“We had a big improvement in our performance in the sprint car this year and we did it because we raced every shot we had,” Stewart said. “I’m not going to have an IndyCar career, so if I do it, I am going to have to put a lot of effort into it.

“If I do that, I’m going to be taking away from the racing I want to be doing for quite a while. So I need to reevaluate if Indy is something I really want to do.”

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.