Tony Stewart, better known by his nickname Smoke, is a former professional race car driver. Smoke is the only driver in history to win both a NASCAR and an IndyCar championship. Smoke who retired from professional racing in 2016 is now a NASCAR team owner. Even though he is retired Smoke definitely still has the racing bug and if an offer comes his way to race at a future Indy 500 running it will be hard for Smoke to decline such a lucrative offer.
Smoke recently made some comments about racing again without really thinking it through and the responses he received took Stewart by surprise. Stewart did run his mouth a bit but he admitted that he wouldn’t have said anything about a potential return unless he felt that it was realistically possible. Stewart admitted that he did speak to Roger Penske and Michael Andretti and he still has an open invitation with them.
The response that Stewart didn’t see coming arrived in the form of an email. Bobby Rahal and David Letterman took Smoke’s comment about racing again seriously and they extended him an offer to race in one of their cars. Rahal is an Indy Car racing legend and current team owner, if he shows interest then one can be certain that it is the real deal. Stewart admitted that he isn’t much of an email type of guy and he was blissfully unaware of the offer that was extended to him by Rahal and Letterman.
This whole series of events started during a rain delay at the running of the Brickyard 400 in early September at the Indianapolis Motorway Speedway. It is very fitting that this whole conversation started at the home of the Indy 500 and it will even more interesting to keep an eye on how this all plays out over the next 18 months.
Stewart has since admitted that a return to the 2019 Indy 500 for the 103rd running of the race is highly unlikely but that a return in 2020 should not be ruled out by any stretch of the imagination. Stewart doesn’t take a return to the Indy 500 lightly if he is going to race he wants to try and win. Stewart wants to run an oval race over the course of the next year as preparation if he is going to race in 2020.
Stewart made his debut at the Indy 500 in 1996, Smoke started his debut run in pole position and lead the race for 31 laps before he had to withdraw due to mechanical problems. In 1997 Stewart finished in 5th position and he added a couple of top-10 finishes in 1999 and 2001. Stewart won 3 out of his 26 career IndyCar races and he won the 1997 Indy Racing League. Stewart’s NASCAR career lasted nearly 20 years and with over 50 race wins and a host of other awards Smoke is one of the best drivers in the history of NASCAR.
Stewart has no hopes of resurrecting an IndyCar career at the age of 49, but passing up an offer to race in the Indy 500 will be difficult for a guy like Smoke. Smoke’s best racing days might be a thing of the past but it will definitely raise some eyebrows if he does make a return to the Brickyard in 2020. Nothing is set in stone yet but if Smoke were to make a return it is safe to say that it could very well be in a Rahal, Letterman car.