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Tony Stewart could run the Indy 500 as soon as next year

Could Tony Stewart race the Indy 500? (Getty)

Tony Stewart hasn’t run a Cup-level NASCAR race in a year and a half, but he hinted on Thursday that he’d love to return to his own racing roots and run the Indianapolis 500 again, perhaps as soon as next year. Let’s dig in.

Could Stewart run the Indy 500 again?

Could he? Absolutely. Will he? That remains to be seen.

Stewart helped Ford debut its new Mustang for the 2019 Cup series at an event in Michigan Thursday, and during a Q&A session, the possibility of running the Indy again arose.

“If I go, I’m not going just to run it,” Stewart said, according to NBC Sports. “I don’t want to be a sideshow like Danica (Patrick) was at Indy this year. If I go, I want to go feeling like I’ve got the same opportunity to win that everyone else in the field does.” Shot at his erstwhile teammate aside, Stewart has a long way to go to get strapped into a car. He hasn’t had any serious discussions with teams yet, he said, and that would be the deciding factor.

Stewart’s a racing lifer, and he knows exactly how hard it is to win at any level. For that reason, he won’t just fill a seat just to say he did it. “It’s an insult to the guys who do it every week to show up and think you’re going to be as good as those guys are,” he said. “They’re on their game. They know their cars. They know how they need their cars to feel in practice to be good in the race. It’s foolish to think you can just show up and be competitive and have a shot to win.”

Although he’s not running at the Cup level, Stewart continues to race; he’s run 62 sprint car races already this year in addition to his work running Stewart-Haas Racing. But he’s still got the itch to run other races.

“Everything’s a possibility,” he said. “There’s nothing I’ve written off and said, ‘You know what, I’m never doing it.’ Everything is an opportunity still. I’m getting anxious to do stuff again.”

Stewart laughed that he wouldn’t do Formula One for a simple reason: he can’t fit in the car. “That’s going to be a tough one,” he said. “(F1 drivers are) skinny. I don’t mind working hard to be a race car driver, but I don’t want to have to work that hard just to be skinny. I like to eat still.”

How have NASCAR drivers fared in the Indy 500?

It’s not easy, but it’s doable. Kurt Busch was the Indy “Rookie of the Year” back in 2014 when he came in sixth; the year before, AJ Allmendinger finished seventh. Patrick, John Andretti, Juan Pablo Montoya and Sam Hornish Jr. are some of the drivers who have bounced back and forth between the two series.

Stewart got his start in open-wheel, driving five Indy 500s in his young career. He won the pole as a rookie and finished fifth in 1997, leading 64 laps.

It’s a long way from here to Memorial Day weekend, but if Stewart does run the Indy 500, it’ll make a great race even more fun to watch.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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