KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — It came quietly, and with a bit of a prod at new Stewart-Haas Racing driver Aric Almirola, but team co-owner Tony Stewart said Wednesday that he may return to NASCAR competition for select XFINITY Series races, though it won’t be in the immediate future.
Stewart made the remarks during a press conference announcing that Almirola will pilot the No. 10 Smithfield Ford for SHR next season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, referencing the team’s new partnership with Biagi-DenBeste Racing as a potential avenue to drive select events.
SHR will field two XFINITY cars next season, the No. 00 Ford full-time for Cole Custer and the famed Biagi-DenBeste No. 98 Ford on a yet-to-be determined schedule. Regular SHR Cup driver Kevin Harvick has already been confirmed to drive the car on a part-time basis next year.
“Can I drive an XFINITY car?” Almirola asked Stewart.
“We’ll work on that,” Stewart responded. “I might want to drive it at some point even. You guys act like you don’t need something shocking today to write,” he joked to the assembled media.
“There are actually some road course races (in the XFINITY Series) that I might be interested in running. We’ve discussed it in-house here, but we don’t have anything near worth announcing by any means. There are some really cool races, though … especially Charlotte having a road course race next year. I mean, there might be some opportunities that might be a little bit fun for me to come out and dust things off a little bit.”
Stewart later expounded on his comments during breakout interviews with the media.
“(The itch to get drive an XFINITY car) is relatively new this year, to be honest with you,” said Stewart. “There’s a couple tracks that I’ve never been to that the XFINITY Series goes to that, somewhere down the road, I’d live to go to and drive at. It will not happen this coming year. But down the road I would like to dabble in a couple races here and there.”
Potential venues that Stewart expressed an interest in Wednesday included Wisconsin’s Road America and the new Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval, which debuts next fall during the playoffs for both the XFINITY Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
“Road America could happen (in the future),” Stewart admitted. “Some of those cool road courses; I’ve never raced at those tracks before, so if there’s an opportunity down the road to do that and help our program, that’s something we’ll look at.”
“As far as the Charlotte Roval, it’s interesting. I know Kurt (Busch) did the test there, but I haven’t really talked to him about how the test went yet. I like Marcis Smith. He thinks outside the box and I like that about him; he learned a lot about that from being around (former promoter) Humpy Wheeler at Charlotte. He doesn’t just stay aligned with traditional thinking … and to have a project like that is pretty cool, I think.”
However, there was one road course race on the XFINITY schedule that Stewart shot down any possibility of competing at in his own right, at least given the current schedule.
“Mid-Ohio can’t happen (right now) because it’s the week of Knoxville Nationals … I know you dirt guys laugh because you know we’re not leaving Knoxville,” Stewart smiled.
“The possibility of other stuff … we’ll see what happens. There’s other things floating out there that are way bigger than NASCAR.”
Stewart’s last race to-date in the XFINITY Series came on Feb. 23, 2013 at Daytona Int’l Speedway. It was also the most recent of his 11 victories in the series, coming behind the wheel of the No. 33 Oreo/Ritz Crackers Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network, as well as a periodic contributor to SPEED SPORT Magazine.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 23-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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