Texas Motor Speedway

If Tony Stewart runs in Indy 500 again, he won’t be a ‘sideshow’ like Danica Patrick

If Tony Stewart runs in another Indianapolis 500, he doesn’t want to follow the path of Danica Patrick.

Patrick made more of a token appearance in IndyCar’s signature event last May, crashing and finishing 30th in the final professional race of her career. Stewart doesn’t want to do that.

“I don’t want to do like Danica Patrick. I don’t want to be a sideshow at the 500,” Stewart said on Wednesday at Texas Motor Speedway. “If I do it, I want to do it because I want to feel like that I legitimately have a shot [to win] when I show up on the first day. I want to feel like I have a shot to win the race.

“Those guys are so competitive in that series right now, you aren’t going to show up like you could 20 years ago and jump in a car and go out there and be up to speed with those guys. They are on top of their game. If it happens, we would definitely run at least one oval race before the 500.”

Stewart and Patrick have a long history together. Patrick drove for Stewart-Haas Racing each of her full-time seasons at the NASCAR Cup level from 2013-17, although she had limited success. Patrick never posted a top-five finish and had just seven top-10 runs in 180 career Cup races with SHR.

As far as Stewart is concerned, the earliest he would run the Indy 500 would be in 2020. That would be 19 years after his last Indy 500 race, a sixth-place run in 2001. Stewart ran five Indy 500s in his career with a career-best fifth-place finish in 1997.

Stewart has had conversations about doing it, including with a representative from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as recently as Tuesday, but is realistic about it.

“By then I’ll be 49 and it’s pretty late to be trying to resurrect an IndyCar career I think,” Stewart said. “I like eating too much. Those guys are skinny. Very skinny guys.”

But Stewart wouldn’t completely close the door on the possibility. He doesn’t miss running a full-time NASCAR schedule and keeps his racing juices filled by running a number of dirt track races, but the Indy 500 is intriguing.

If he does it, though, Stewart said he’d run in the fall IndyCar race at Pocono Raceway. That race happened in August, which is why 2020 would be the earliest Indy 500 for Stewart.

Stewart made the comments as he’s in town for his annual “Smoke Show” this week. The one-day fantasy camp for racing fans has raised more than $1.7 million for the Texas chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities.

This event has been a staple for Stewart since 2008 and it never gets old. This year is special because TMS gave a couple spots to veterans.

“I guarantee they are tougher than I am,” Stewart said, smiling. “So if you can do anything to impress them, that’s going to be half the battle. To have some real heroes with us this week, that’s something I’m pretty excited about.”

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