Tony Stewart Hits the Dirt at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway …

Posted: July 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

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Tony Stewart did not want rocking chairs and other tchotchkes from racetracks on his final tour of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The Hoosier just wanted to go about his business without additional hubbub.

But a gift he could race on? That’s one Tony will accept every time.

On Tuesday, at the end of his media day promoting the Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard, the 2005 and 2007 champion headed out to Turn 3 of the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval to see a little slice of heaven – a 3/16ths-mile dirt oval laid on the infield. And he never stopped smiling.

“Did you think you’d ever see this in your lifetime?” Stewart said to one veteran journalist who knew him since the USAC dirt days.

Long before Stewart was a three-time Cup champion and an Indy Racing League champ, the now-45-year-old ruled on dirt. He won the USAC National Midget championship in 1994 and the USAC Triple Crown in 1995. But even as his pavement career flourished, he still kept wheels in the dirt, either through car ownership (Tony Stewart Racing), track ownership (Eldora Speedway) or racing himself.

He hadn’t run a midget in a couple years – and joked that fitting into one was a challenge in itself – but the opportunity to run on dirt at the “Racing Capital of the World” was irresistible.

“I was dead set I was not going to get in anything but … I’m addicted,” he said.

And with that, he jumped into his Sprint Cup suit and helmet and grabbed the wheel of Carson Macedo’s midget and took hot laps with Bryan Clauson and Sarah Fisher, two other drivers cut from the Smoke cloth of “drive anything, anywhere.”

“This is cool for everybody involved, especially the short track racing community,” said Clauson, a three-time Indy 500 starter and one of four USAC regulars who turned laps in the exhibition.

“Tony, he cares so much about short track racing. He could easily spend his (free) time on a boat or out hunting, but he chooses to work and play at the short tracks. That says a lot about what this means to him.”

And maybe the Crown Royal 400 won’t be the Columbus native’s last race on the IMS grounds after all, if a dirt track becomes part of the IMS calendar.

“It wouldn’t hurt my feelings (having a race here),” Stewart said. “It’s a short drive up here.”

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