Tony Stewart to turn laps at Circuit of the Americas in NASCAR two-seater
The three-time champion will treat Haas F1’s duo to a stock car tutorial
For the first time since the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season finale, Tony Stewart will return to the wheel of a stock car. But—hold on—the three-time champion isn’t planning a comeback.
Instead, the 48-year-old will turn a series of exhibition laps on Thursday at the Circuit of the Americas prior to the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix weekend with Haas F1 drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen riding shotgun.
Stewart has entertained the idea of entering a one-off NASCAR Xfinity Series race on a road course over the past couple of years but decided to scratch the itch this way instead.
“It’s kind of hard to believe that it’s been three years since I last drove a stock car, but seeing some of these road-course races—especially the Roval at Charlotte—have piqued my interest a bit, so this is a good way to sort of satisfy that hunger,” said Stewart, who will be enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Jan. 31.
“I’ve never been to COTA. All I know about it is what I’ve seen on TV and on my iRacing simulator. I kind of like that. Even after two decades in NASCAR, there’s still new stuff to experience. I haven’t driven that racetrack, and Kevin and Romain haven’t ever driven a stock car. We’ll figure it out together.”
While retired from active NASCAR competition, Stewart keeps a busy schedule. He operates Eldora Speedway and the All-Star Circuit of (Sprint Car) Champions. He also will hit 100 races entered his own sprint car this year, having won 10 of them, recently debuting the new Ford 410 sprint car engine program.
“People sometimes say, ‘We miss seeing you behind the wheel,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, you’re going to the wrong places now,’” Stewart said. “I’m racing 100 times a year. You’ve just got to come watch me in a different car.”
Stewart last played the role of driving coach to a Formula 1 driver last October when he introduced Magnussen to a 410 sprint car at Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, North Carolina.
“I found my feet in that sprint car last October pretty quickly thanks to his advice, and also thanks to him jumping in the car and showing how it’s done before I got in,” Magnussen said. “I had a great time with Tony. He’s a great driving instructor, and he knows his way around these things. His experience and knowledge when it comes to stock cars is probably just as impressive.”
Magnussen and Grosjean have limited experience in cars with roofs. Grosjean drove a Ford GT1 in the 2010 FIA GT1 championship, while Magnussen drove a GT2 car once and tested a DTM touring car.
“I think we just need to slam the brakes a bit earlier than we do with a Formula 1 car,” Grosjean said. “We’ll see how the engine responds to throttle application. I can’t wait. The sound of it’s going to be great. I think it’s going to be a good experience. I think having Tony helping us and giving us advice is going to be bloody amazing.”
“I’m pretty certain it’s going to be very different to the other car I drive around COTA,” he said. “It’s going to be a very interesting experience. A NASCAR is such an iconic race car. I’ve always been eager to try one. Of course, it’s usually in its element on an oval, but they do race on road courses, as well. It’ll be interesting to have a go and have a bit of fun.”
Following his tutorial laps at COTA, Stewart will make the quick trek over to Texas Motor Speedway to handle car owner duties for Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart will also race in the Texas Motor Speedway Sprint Car Nationals on the TMS Dirt Track on Thursday night and Friday night.
Stewart will also be inducted into the facility’s Hall of Fame on Saturday.
“It’s the best of both worlds for me,” Stewart said. “I get to be with our NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series teams during the day, but each night I get to go over to the dirt track. It’s fun for our crew guys, too. They’re racers who have dirt-track blood in their veins. They come over and watch the race. It just makes for a perfect weekend.”