Smoke returns: Stewart plans to race on Indy road course

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Smoke is hoping to kiss the bricks one more time.

NASCAR Hall of Famer driver Tony Stewart announced plans Wednesday to drive in the Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 4. The three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and 2020 Hall of Fame inductee will headline the race held on the 14-turn, 2.44-mile road course.

The 48-year-old Indiana native has competed in 18 Brickyard 400s, five Indianapolis 500s and four IROC Series races at the famed track. He is a two-time Brickyard 400 winner (2005, 2007) and a member of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame. He retired from full-time NASCAR racing after the 2016 season.

“Everyone knows what Indy means to me, so I can’t think of a better place to race on Fourth of July weekend,” said Stewart, who grew up 45 minutes from Indy. “The date is already circled on my calendar.”

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Stewart has eight road-course wins in the Cup Series, trailing only Jeff Gordon, and notched his 49th and final career victory in 2016 at Sonoma Raceway in California.

The Indiana 150 will mark Stewart’s 95th start in the Xfinity Series and his first since the winning the 2013 season opener at Daytona International Speedway. It also will mark Stewart’s first NASCAR start since the 2016 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“People sometimes say, ‘We miss seeing you behind the wheel,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, you’ve just got to go to different places now,’” said Stewart, who has 23 wins in an assortment of sprint car races since retiring as a full-time NASCAR driver. “I’m racing 100 times a year in a sprint car, but seeing some of these road-course races – especially the Roval at Charlotte – piqued my interest a bit. … All of it has led me back to the place I’ve always called home – Indy.”

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