INDIANAPOLIS — After waiving the green flag for Sarah Fisher and Bryan Clauson to christen the dirt track dedicated in his honor Tuesday evening at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart was feeling a little antsy.
“I might have brought a uniform and a helmet with me today, just in case I wanted to do something really stupid like this,” Stewart said. “I brought one for a reason, but I was dead set that I was not going to get in anything. I’m addicted.”
So after watching a couple other pairs of drivers take a few laps around the 3/16-mile oval, the Columbus native hopped into the car of one of those drivers, Carson Macedo’s No. 71 midget.
After Stewart took a few laps with the track to himself, Fisher and Clauson joined him for several more engine-revving, dirt-spraying laps in front of about 150 fans, media and IMS employees.
“It brought back a lot of memories,” Stewart said. “I haven’t been in a midget for two full years now. I miss it.”
Sticking with the theme of presenting a bottle of milk to the Indy 500 winner, IMS president Doug Boles gave Stewart a bottle of dirt to commemorate the dirt track.
Stewart said Boles has been sending him pictures and video of the track since the plans for it were conceived a couple weeks ago as a gift for his impending retirement from the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit.
“It’s not really so much a dedication of a track as it was ‘How can we do something that’s never been done here at the Speedway before and something that Tony would like,’” Boles said. “He loves dirt track racing so much, we thought ‘What better way than to do this.’ This was just a way of saying, ‘Tony, thanks a lot, here’s a dirt track. Come on out and play and have some fun here at the Speedway.”
Boles said the dirt track won’t be there long. Most short tracks are built with clay, and Boles said he plans to continue consulting with Stewart about the potential of a short track inside IMS.
“I don’t think any of us thought in our lifetime we’d ever see something like this at IMS, but Doug has done such an awesome job here,” Stewart said. “This is a short-track racer’s dream — to be able to come to Indianapolis and race at Indy. It may not be on the 2½-mile track, but to come race here, that’s pretty cool for anybody.”
Stewart has been racing at IMS since the early 1990s. The past 17 years, he’s competed in NASCAR’s Brickyard 400.
This year’s Brickyard — on July 24 — will be his last.
“It’s hard to get here,” Stewart said. “I hit the lottery. I got lucky getting my opportunity to come here, but there’s a lot of drivers that deserve a chance to come race at Indy and have the talent to do it.”
Boles said Stewart has been one of the Speedway’s most popular drivers when he ran in the Indy Racing League and certainly in NASCAR.
“The idea that he grew up in central Indiana and cut many of his teeth racing in central Indiana and the Midwest, he’s not only one of our most popular, but one of the drivers that I think we all would love to be successful here,” Boles said.
Although Stewart is retiring from the Sprint Cup circuit, he isn’t retiring from racing altogether. He has indicated he would like to continue driving sprint cars and said Tuesday that he’d love to do that at IMS.
If he doesn’t, he won’t mind becoming a spectator.
“We get to actually come and watch a race here at IMS on a dirt track,” Stewart said. “That’s going to be pretty awesome. We haven’t been able to do that for the first hundred years, but they can do it for the next hundred.”