Tony Stewart won’t stop racing after he exits his Sprint Cup car for the final time this season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
Instead, he plans to return to his roots.
“I plan on running a lot of dirt races after the end of the season when I retire from the Cup stuff, so I would say this is on the radar,” Stewart said during a press conference Monday at the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Stewart isn’t competing this week at the Chili Bowl Nationals but will help with track preparations as he did last year. That included driving a tractor to get the track in shape at the River Spirit Expo Center at Tulsa’s Expo Square. Racing starts tonight and concludes with Saturday night’s finale. Among drivers with NASCAR ties competing are Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., J.J. Yeley and defending race winner Rico Abreu.
Stewart, who won the event in 2002 and ’07, explained what winning it meant: “The first time I won the Chili Bowl, we had already won the Triple Crown (USAC titles for sprints, midgets and Silver Crown) and won an IndyCar championship. Winning the Chili Bowl, a one-race event, was bigger than winning the IndyCar championship to me. It was much harder to win the Chili Bowl. Everybody wants this trophy. It’s just a special deal.”
Stewart, a three-time Sprint Cup champion who came up through the dirt track ranks to IndyCar and NASCAR, has not raced on a dirt track since an incident Aug. 9, 2014, at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park that killed Kevin Ward Jr. Stewart and Ward had been racing together when Ward’s car hit the wall. Ward exited his car and walked down the track toward Stewart’s car when he was struck and killed.
A grand jury ruled that Stewart would not face charges for the incident. The Ward family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Stewart on Aug. 7, 2015. Stewart has stated that he did not see Ward until just before Ward was struck. The case remains in court.
The incident came about a year after Stewart broke his right tibia and fibula in a sprint car crash Aug. 5, 2013, at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
Stewart also owns Eldora Speedway, which hosts the Camping World Truck Series in a popular dirt track event.
It’s not hard to imagine Stewart returning to compete in the Chili Bowl next year.
“It is the dirt track race of the year,” Stewart said of an event that has 344 cars entered and drivers from 34 states and five countries. “I don’t care what series, what track, this is the place to be. It’s the only time all year you’re going to get this many quality cars and drivers and teams to come to one event and race.”