Tony Stewart wasn’t exactly keen on NASCAR running at Indianapolis Motor Speedway back in 1994.
That was when IMS began hosting the Brickyard 400. Now, 20 years later, the Columbus native is a two-time champion of the race and will try to make it three when the 21st Brickyard 400 begins at 1 p.m. Sunday.
“Honestly, I was one that absolutely thought it was a crime, initially,” Stewart said in a news release. “I’m a purist. I’m old school. It’s always been sacred ground to me. I remember when they did the tire test there and ... there was so much excitement after that, and that really didn’t even get me to switch sides.”
But it didn’t take long for Stewart to change his tune.
“I was actually in Illinois the day that the (1994) Brickyard ran, and when I got back and saw the replay of the race, it was very evident that this was something that wasn’t breaking any sort of religious code, so to speak, or sacrilegious for it to be there,” Stewart said. “It
really showed why NASCAR belonged there.
“But in the beginning, I was one of them that didn’t like it until I actually got back and saw the replay of the race and saw how much excitement it brought,” he said. “It was the month of May historically, and all of a sudden it was the month of May and August now, and you had the same historic racetrack, and now, you had two events instead of one.”
For Stewart, Indy is a place that has more meaning than just a place where he has a couple of wins under his belt.
“No, it’s definitely not just another victory to us,” Stewart said. “It’s a big deal to us to win here. This is an event that I definitely circle on the schedule and, emotionally, have a lot invested in it.
“It’s definitely not just another stop that’s on the calendar and on the schedule,” he said. “You don’t just pull in and say, ‘We’re going to go in, try to win the race and then pull out of here.’ When you’re here, you’re amped up because you’re at Indianapolis.”