By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Tony Stewart has just 400 miles left in his illustrious 18-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. Obviously, Stewart will get up on the wheel in an effort to nab his 50th-career victory in the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead. But the big question many have had since Stewart announced in the offseason that he would be retiring at year’s end, is whether or not he would consider returning on a part-time basis. When pressed earlier this year on the topic, Stewart basically said never say never.
However, Friday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Stewart had a complete change of heart.
“No, I’m good. This is it. This is the last one,” Stewart stated emphatically during a media availability.
Stewart joked that a certain legendary driver helped him decide not to run another NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
“I think I learned my lesson from Jeff (Gordon). Jeff tried to do somebody a favor this year and got roped into running half the season,” Stewart quipped. “Thank you Jeff for teaching me a lesson before I got roped into it. So, no, I’m not planning on that at all.”
All joking aside, Stewart said even if he wanted to run a NASCAR race next season, he’d have no time to squeeze in a race weekend.
“We are going to be busy. In all honesty and I don’t have a schedule set next year, but I just know the things that I’m planning, my schedule next year is going to be much busier than it already is this year,” Stewart said. “There is just not going to be room for it.”
Win-lose-or draw on Sunday, Stewart will walk away from NASCAR a three-time Cup Series champion. And he will forever be immortalized as one of the most versatile drivers to ever wheel a stock car. However, even with all of his biggest achievements, even a legend like Stewart leaves a wake of disappointment.
But as Stewart explained Friday, disappointment is a tough label when you didn’t even expect to have a chance to cross off bucket list items in the first place.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that I didn’t win a Daytona 500, a Southern 500 and most of all an Indy 500,” Stewart said. “But, I look at it and look at where I was when I was 15 years old, and 18 years old, I never even thought I would get a chance to race those races let alone in all three of them have opportunities to win the race. In a perfect world, yes, I would have loved to be able to cross those three off the list. But at the same time, I look at the big picture and it was pretty damn cool to just have the opportunity to go race those races.”
Amazing perspective from a legend who clawed his way to the top the hard way.