Stewart Leaves Door Open For Future Indy Return
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
CONCORD, N.C. – Tony Stewart may have turned down Roger Penske’s offer to drive for the 15-time Indianapolis 500 winning car owner in this year’s historic Memorial Day weekend open-wheel race, but that doesn’t mean the opportunity is gone forever.
The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion said Monday during the kickoff function for this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway that he considered the offer “open-ended.” Penske, the 2012 Sprint Cup championship car owner, made the offer to Stewart during his speech at the November awards banquet in Las Vegas.
“I actually went back to Roger and had dinner with him in Indianapolis after the IMIS [International Motorsports Industry] Trade Show reception,” said Stewart, who won the 1997 Indy Racing League title before moving to NASCAR. “I told him he didn’t necessarily back me into a corner, but he made me a generous offer and I made him a counter offer (that) it’s an open-ended invitation. Even though we haven’t accepted this year, some year down the road we might be able to accept that offer. He never said no, so as far as I’m concerned we have an open-ended invitation to run it.”
Stewart has performed the Memorial Day weekend double twice. In 1999, he finished ninth in the Indy 500 and fourth in Charlotte’s Coca-Cola 600. Two years later he placed sixth at Indianapolis and third at Charlotte.
The Indiana native said he didn’t accept Penske’s offer for this year because of the NASCAR team he co-owns.
“There is a lot of commitment with what we’re doing here,” Stewart said about his NASCAR team that has grown to three cars this year with the addition of Danica Patrick.
“Indy Car racing has progressed and the competition has gotten tighter there. I feel like that is the perfect team to go and do the month of May with. I still feel like for me as a driver I would need to start the year with that team and run through the month of May to really feel like I was competitive and where I needed to be. It’s a huge opportunity and a very flattering offer at the same time.”
Just not this year.
It’s evident race fans are happy about NASCAR’s return to dirt track racing.
Tony Stewart said Monday that more than 16,000 reserved seats have been sold for the July 24 NASCAR Camping World Series truck race at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Stewart said less than 1,000 reserved seats remain available.
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