HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart will make his 618th and final start in the series Sunday afternoon at Homestead-Miami Speedway, but the Indiana native is already looking ahead to next season.
After 18 years, 49 victories and three championships, Stewart will continue in his role as team owner of Stewart-Haas Racing next season, but will also get back to his roots on the dirt tracks of America.
“You’re going to see me driving a lot next year, but most of it will be on dirt,” Stewart said. “I kind of look at this as halftime of my career and I’ll still be around the NASCAR garage. I’ll just have more time. If I see Richard Petty or anyone else in the garage, I can go over and talk to him now and not have to worry about getting to the car or trying to figure out how to make my car go faster. I can focus now on what I want to do and my job at SHR (Stewart-Haas Racing.)”
Not even Stewart knows what 2017 will bring for him. He knows he’ll be dirt racing, overseeing his World of Outlaws team and Eldora Speedway in Ohio. He’ll also keep up with his duties at SHR.
But there will be time for Stewart to enjoy a little of what he has missed while competing on the grinding NASCAR tour the last 18 years.
“There are races and places I want to go to that I haven’t been able to go to because of our schedule,” he said. “It’s not like I have a great vacation I want to go do. I am so mental about racing that everything I want to do has racing in it. There are races and events I haven’t seen — as a fan, spectator — and some I even want to race in. It’s nice to have some flexibility.”
One way or another, Stewart is confident the majority of his time will be spent around racing.
“When you have raced for 38 years, that’s all you know, it’s all you think about, that is all you dream about,” he said. “When you wake up, you’re thinking about it. While you are eating breakfast, that’s all you do. I just can’t imagine that there’s not more to life than this. I know there is. I know people who talk about it all the time. I’ve got friends like Don Prudhomme and Ray Evernham and guys who are already retired who talk about how much fun they’re having. I’m like, ‘Man, that sounds like a good time to me.’”