Three-time NASCAR Cup champion drives 10 minutes on temporary dirt-track circuit
Tony Stewart now knows what it’s like to drive a midget on a dirt track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Stewart did so Tuesday evening as part of a thank-you gift IMS gave him as he prepares to retire from NASCAR at season`s end. Stewart’s passion is dirt-track racing, so IMS built a 3/16th-mile oval in the turn 3 infield to let him play for a bit, and he certainly did.
Stewart spent about 10 minutes wheeling a Keith Kunz-built midget around the track, kicking up dirt and going side by side with another multi-time USAC champion, Bryan Clauson.
“It was a good time,” Stewart said after climbing from the car drenched in sweat. “It brought back a lot of memories. I haven’t been in a midget for two full years, two and a half years. I miss it. We’ll get back in one, hopefully one with a Chevy logo though.”
The car he drove was Toyota-powered.
The dirt track is temporary, but IMS president Doug Boles is interested to see if it is feasible to have a larger track in the same area for a special show, perhaps on a Brickyard 400 weekend in the future. Certainly, there are economic, logistical and safety concerns to resolve before that can happen, but at least Tuesday’s showing proved IMS to be a very cool backdrop for flying dirt and screaming engines.
Six midgets were brought to IMS for the exhibition, one of them driven by former IndyCar driver Sarah Fisher. Clauson has competed in three Indianapolis 500s since 2012.
Stewart, who was at IMS for a series of Brickyard-previewing media interviews, wasn’t sure he’d get in a car given the amount of rain Central Indiana had received in the past few days and the newness of the track. Obviously, getting hurt again is something he couldn’t afford to do, if possible.
But of course, this is Tony Stewart, who has proven he will drive any car at any time.
“I had stuff with me,” he said, smiling. “I knew it was a possibility, but I didn’t know for sure. It was fun.
“I can’t believe how good (the track) is holding together. I mean, normally when they build a new track like that you’ve got to run on it a little bit to find out where the soft spots are and everything, so it’s holding up pretty good for a new racetrack.
“The tough part is, I don’t fit this car very well. These drivers are much smaller than I am.”
As for the possibility of having a midget race at IMS in the future, Stewart, who lives in nearby Columbus, Indiana, is all for it.
“It wouldn’t hurt my feelings; it’s a short drive up here,” he said. “I can do that.”
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