NASCAR News: Tony Stewart Announces He’s Not Going Back to INDY500 for 2 Major Reasons: “Literally One of the Deciding Factors”

Published 01/15/2024, 12:49 PM EST

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When Tony Stewart began his run of dominance in IndyCar’s new IRL series in the late 90s, the entire open-wheel community believed Stewart would be one of the drivers of tomorrow for IndyCar. But his defection to NASCAR only a few years later caught everyone by surprise yet proved to be the right decision for him to have made in the long run.

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Not only did Stewart manage to bring home a championship during his stint with Menard, but the now-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing also holds bragging rights as the only driver from NASCAR to finish both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in a double entry. While Kyle Larson is set to follow in Stewart’s footsteps this year, the 52-year-old revealed just why he hasn’t returned to the sport that he seemed to be so at home with a few decades ago.

How Tony Stewart’s NASCAR ambitions literally ‘outweighed’ the Indycar dream

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The 1997 IndyCar season was the stuff of dreams for Tony Stewart, as it not only kick-started his journey as a racer at the top level but also leapfrogged him into NASCAR stardom not soon after. While speaking to the MotorTrend channel about the highs and lows of his career, Stewart touched upon a rather simple yet vital reason behind his absence from the Indy 500 and the Indycar series.

Stewart shared, “I wanted it to drag me back, the problem was you know, early 2000s, I mean, drivers weren’t really heavier than 165 pounds. I weighed almost 190. I’m not going on a diet to lose 25 pounds just to run the Indy 500 and that’s literally one of the deciding factors.” Sending the hosts into a fit of laughter, Stewart clarified how the strict regimen of open-wheel racing categories restricted his ability and motivation to compete long-term.

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Stewart also believed that IndyCar was like any other premier motorsport series, which meant it was essential to have ample track time to even dream of being competent. Speaking on his experiences with Marco Andretti, Dario Franchitti and Tony K’naan, Stewart shared, “Listening to how technical those cars were, I was going to be at a disadvantage out of the gate because, it’s just that technical in every form of motorsports that, if you’re not doing it all the time, you’re going to be behind.”

Only a few days ago, SHR announced that the beloved SRX series would be going on a hiatus owing to growing market concerns, prompting many fans to think Tony Stewart was taking a breather, which he has since dismissed. But even with all the different pies that Stewart has got his hand in, IndyCar never seemed to be an enticing proposition for the 1997 Champion after experiencing glory in NASCAR during the 2000s.

While it’s safe to say IndyCar wasn’t Stewart’s cup of tea despite his impressive form, the 52-year-old had nothing but praises for its European open-wheel cousin.

“makes sense why they crash into each other all the time” – Tony Stewart sympathizes with F1 drivers

For a while now, many F1 drivers and NASCAR racers have been showing love for each other’s racing categories, whether it’s Daniil Kvyat recently sharing how delightful his experience at the Oval was or Max Verstappen chiming in with his revelation about Shane Van Gisbergen’s thrilling win at the Charlotte Roval. This time, Tony Stewart returned the kind words by highlighting how technical the braking is in Formula 1.

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He shared, “I got four laps in Lewis Hamilton’s car, we did a seat swap with Mobil 1 at Watkins Glen and that was a blast, really enjoyed that, the impressive thing wasn’t the horsepower or the cornering, it was, the thing that impressed me the most was how good the brakes were on it.” Stewart also hysterically highlighted his wonder at how F1 drivers managed to run into the back of one another by locking up in the corners.

But once he got to witness just how powerful the stopping power of a Formula 1 car is, Stewart couldn’t help but notice a newfound respect within himself. He added, “When you get into one of those cars you realize how short the braking zone is and how much further you have to go than the next guy to get position, it all makes sense why they crash into each other all the time, it’s that small of a braking zone that you have got to make up a lot of distance in a short time.

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While F1 also has a similar right restriction to IndyCar, the sheer adrenaline rush Stewart would’ve gotten out of the high G force braking zones would have been well worth the trade-off! But do you think Stewart would have also faired equally well in F1 as he did in IndyCar? Let us know in the comments!

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Written by:

Kabir Bajaj Ahmed

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One take at a time

My journey into the world of motorsports began when I watched the Top Gear Ayrton Senna tribute as a child. I later materialized my passion for motorsport through karting on the side. By the time I completed my undergrad in Journalism, I had extensive karting experience, with a few podium finishes to my name.
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Edited by:

Caroline Joseph

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