If there was one race track that could draw Tony Stewart out of stock car retirement, it’s not surprising he would choose Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Stewart-Haas Racing announced on Wednesday the three-time NASCAR champion and Hall of Famer will race the inaugural Pennzoil 250 on the Indianapolis Grand Prix Course on July 4.
The race will mark Stewart’s 28th-career start at the Brickyard (NASCAR, IndyCar and IROC) and his first in a NASCAR Xfinity Series car at the iconic Speedway at 16th & Georgetown.
“Everyone knows what Indy means to me, so I can’t think of a better place to race on Fourth of July weekend,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be cool making history by turning left and right in a stock car at the Brickyard, and the racing will be full of action and contact. Any time you can drive any race car at the speedway is special, and you know I’m going for the win. The date is already circled on my calendar.”
The Indiana native, who grew up just south of the Circle City in Columbus, made his debut at the Speedway in 1996 racing for John Menard in what was then the Indy Racing League. He won the pole and finished 24th in his first of five IndyCar starts. Smoke’s best result was fifth in 1997, but he went on to run the Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 double in both 1999 and 2001 and scored two additional top-10 finishes at the 2.5-mile oval.
Stewart posted two wins, one pole, seven top fives and 11 top 10s in 18 NASCAR Cup Series starts at his home track. He has referred to his wins in the Brickyard 400 as the most meaningful of his NASCAR career.
Eight of Stewart’s Cup wins came on road courses—including his 49th and final NASCAR victory at Sonoma Raceway in 2016. Although he’s yet to compete on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course at Indy, his interest grew after running an SHR Ford Mustang at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, last October. The race car—complete with a passenger seat—enabled Stewart to give Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen the feel of muscling a stock car around the 3.426-mile circuit.
“It was a lot of fun for me to get in one of our Ford Mustangs and do that exhibition run at COTA,” Stewart said. “It kind of got my juices flowing to get back in a car again, and what better place to come back than Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
In 94 Xfinity Series starts, Stewart has posted 11 wins, 30 top fives and 41 top 10s. His final victory came in his last start in the 2013 Daytona season opener. The Pennzoil 250 will mark Stewart’s first attempt in an NXS road course race and his first stock car start since the 2016 NASCAR Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“People sometimes say, ‘We miss seeing you behind the wheel,” and I’m like, ‘Well, you’ve just got to go to different places now,'” Stewart said. “I’m racing 100 times a year in a sprint car, but seeing some of these road-course races – especially the Roval at Charlotte – piqued my interest a bit, and running the stock car at COTA, it kind of fed my hunger.
“All of it has led me back to the place I’ve always called home—Indy.”