CONCORD, N.C. — During the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series banquet in December, team owner Roger Penske offered Tony Stewart an opportunity to race in the 2013 Indianapolis 500.
Many wondered if the offer was indeed legitimate. As it turned out, it was. Unfortunately for many race fans all over the world, Stewart declined the offer to race in the most legendary open-wheel race in the world.
On Monday during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway, Stewart explained why.
“It was a huge opportunity and a very flattering offer at the same time,” Stewart admitted Monday. “This group up here (Stewart-Haas Racing) is why I’m not going to run the 500. There is a lot of commitment to what we are doing here.
“Like we’ve mentioned, IndyCar racing has progressed and the competition has gotten tighter and tighter there. I feel like they (Penske) are the perfect team to go do the month of May with, but I still feel like for me as a driver I would need to start the year with that team and run through the month of May to really feel like on the first day of practice I was competitive,” Stewart said.
Stewart raced in the Indianapolis 500 on five occasions, earning a best finish of fifth in 1997. The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion admitted he and Penske are keeping the door open for a possible Indianapolis 500 run sometime in the future.
“I talked to Roger and I actually had dinner with him in Indianapolis after the IMIS Trade Show reception,” Stewart said. “He didn’t necessarily back me into a corner, but he made me a generous offer and I made him a counter off that is an open-ended invitation. So even though we didn’t accept this year, maybe some year down the road we might be able to accept that offer.
“He never said no, so as far as I’m concerned we have an open invitation to run with him,” Stewart concluded.