Tony Stewart’s dream of returning to the Indianapolis 500 remains very much alive, but he might be hitting the brakes on next season despite already having an offer.
In an interview with Rutledge Wood (video above) during Sunday’s rain delay at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Stewart said he has been emailed by IndyCar team owner Bobby Rahal about running one of his cars in the Greatest Spectacle of Racing next season.
“And I don’t do emails, so I haven’t even responded to Bobby Rahal yet, so I just found out I had an email from him,” Stewart said, pausing to turn to the camera with a smile. “Sorry Bobby, I don’t do email.”
The delayed response is OK because Stewart seems to be taking himself out of the running already for 2019 after indicating a month ago that he was ready to return to the Indianapolis 500 after an 18-year absence.
“Not this coming year,” he said. “I did what I normally do, I let my mouth open before I thought about what I was saying and mentioned that I was open to the possibility again, and I realistically am.
“The reason I wouldn’t do it next year, I’m not doing it to just do it. I want to do it to try to win the race. If you’re really going to do that, the IndyCar Series is so competitive right now, and the drivers and teams so tough, you’re not going to just stroll in here like they used to do in the ’70s and ’80s and do a good job. I’d want to run an oval race sometime in the coming year to get ready for 2020 if I’m going to do it.
Stewart, who was born and raised in Indiana and lives about an hour south of Indianapolis in Columbus, also said he had talked with team owner Michael Andretti and noted that Roger Penske recently said his offer to drive one of his cars in May remained open. He also believes team owner Chip Ganassi (who fielded Stewart in the 2001 Indy 500, his most recent start) would give him another shot.
The three-time NASCAR champion, who will turn 48 next May, won the 1997 IndyCar championship and has five starts in the Indianapolis 500. In 1999 and ’01, he raced both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.
“I’ve learned to never say never, but you keep doing the math, and I’m pretty sure 49’s probably not a good age to try to resurrect an IndyCar career, but who knows, I’ve done a lot dumber things than that.”