Coffee with Kyle: Confident Tony Stewart still considering Indy 500

Leave a comment

This August, Tony Stewart announced he was considering a return to an open wheel car for a possible bid for the 2020 Indy 500 trophy.

Before the month was over, Robert Wickens was involved in a horrendous accident at Pocono Raceway that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Wickens’ Pocono crash caused Stewart to reconsider, but as he recently told NBC analyst Kyle Petty, The Brickyard still has its siren’s call less than two years since he left NASCAR.

Stewart’s retirement was the result of a promise made nearly 40 years ago.

“I got to where I was mad on Thursdays that I was leaving to go do what I was doing and I was like, ‘this isn’t right.’ ” Stewart told Petty as the two sat down for coffee.

“My dad made me promise when I was eight years old when we started racing together, he said ‘the day that you’re not having fun doing this, promise me you’ll stop.’ And I think he meant if I was nine or ten or 11, but I never forgot that and I finally got to the point where I’m not having fun. Why am I doing this?”

The decision of whether to return to IndyCar has never been easy.

“Somebody asked me earlier this year if I would ever consider going back to Indy and I said ‘yeah.’ A year ago I said ‘absolutely not,’ Stewart said. “My last couple of years in Cup, I ran so bad that I didn’t have any confidence. I didn’t feel like I had the ability any more. Then this year, I started to get that confidence back.”

Stewart’s confidence was rebuilt on the back of several strong runs in sprint cars this year including a victory in the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions series that he owns.

Stewart questioned the value of returning to IndyCar not because he lost his nerve, but because an injury there might keep him from racing the types of cars that are a large part of why he retired from full time racing in the first place.

It was a double-edged sword. The success Stewart has had in sprint car racing in 2018 was also part of his indecision to return to IndyCar.

Wickens’ announcement that he was paralyzed from the waist down came on the heels of Stewart’s win in a USCS Sprint car race at Southern Raceway in Milton, Florida. His Florida win was part of a six-race, top five streak and was one of nine consecutive races win which he finished sixth or better.

The only reason to return to the Indy 500 is to win it. His best finish in the iconic race was fifth in 1997.

“I’ve had offers from (Bobby) Rahal and Zak Brown from the McLaren side, (from) Michael Andretti, from (Team) Penske,” Stewart revealed. “I think (Chip) Ganassi would want me in a car if I still wanted to go – he hasn’t said anything officially. But I’ve got really good offers to run Indy next year. The problem is I don’t have time in those cars.”

The promise of those rides remains. Stewart’s desire to race remains. Now, everyone needs to sit back and see what happens next.

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
Leave a comment

As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”