With Tony Stewart contemplating a handful of NASCAR Xfinity Series road course appearances next season, it’s worth the reminder why the three-time Cup Series champion retired in the first place.
The 46-year-old hasn’t exactly stopped racing.
In fact, he’s more active than ever before, spending more time behind the wheel of his No. 14 Tony Stewart Racing sprint car alongside teammate Donny Schatz. He had hoped to run upwards of 100 races this season while still managing Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, and his stake in the Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR program.
It’s no secret that Stewart had become increasingly jaded with stock car racing over the final decade of his career due to the increases in technology, downforce and side force. He believes that driver talent has taken a back seat to engineering and simply wanted no part of that as a driver.
That’s what makes road courses, along with dirt and short track races, so appealing to the likely first-ballot Hall of Famer. He wants to compete in races in which driver input can compete equally alongside engineering.
“Finally, someone who actually gets that,” Stewart told Autoweek on Wednesday. “That’s one of the reasons why I decided to do something different this year. I wanted to race cars where I felt like I could make a difference.
“So that’s why I’m looking at the road courses for next year. They make you feel like you matter as a driver. I didn’t always feel that way on ovals as a driver last year because of the aerodynamics.”
Stewart inadvertently stole the spotlight from newly signed SHR driver Aric Almirola during a Wednesday morning press conference when he suggested that he could return to the NASCAR Xfinity Series for a road course event like the newly renovated Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval configuration.
“If I come back, it won’t be in a Cup car,” Stewart said. “You know, everyone has talked about me running a Truck at Eldora. And you know, there are some road course races. I loved road course racing during my time as a Cup driver, so there are some road courses that Xfinity races on that I’ve never been to and I would like to try.
“I’ve explored doing that somewhere down the road.”
Stewart earned eight victories on road courses during his 18-year NASCAR Cup Series career. He won five times at Watkins Glen and thrice at Sonoma, including his final win last June with a thrilling last-lap pass over Denny Hamlin.