Will we see three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart make an attempt to run Le Mans sometime in the near future?
According to a recent article from NBC Sports, three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart did his due diligence in regards to looking into running the Rolex 24 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. Stewart, who retired from NASCAR following the 2016 season also seems to remain interested in the world-renowned race in France in the future.
On Saturday fellow-retired driver and friend, Jeff Gordon, returned to the track in the Rolex 24. Stewart himself has competed in the Rolex 24 having started the event four times, the most recent being in 2006. In his Rolex 24 career, Stewart has a career-best finish of third, something he was able to accomplish in both 2004 and 2005.
Getting back to Le Mans, the door there very much remains open for Stewart given his new relationship with Ford.
In 2016 Ford made their return to Le Mans where they won the LM GTE Pro class with Sebastien Bourdais, Joey Hand and Dirk Muller in the No. 68 Ford GT fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. This Ford victory came 50 years after they were able to complete an impressive 1-2-3 sweep at the event in 1966.
During a recent media event Raj Nair, executive vice president for Global Product Development and chief technical officer for Ford Motor Co. spoke about how Ford would be open to Stewart running on their behalf in Le Mans. Nair went onto talk about how Stewart needed to remain “sharp” but seemed more than open to the idea.
I’d never rule that out. I’m not sure what’s going to be happening in the meantime. I think he’s going to stay sharp. Right now we’re pretty happy with our driver lineup.
Nair’s comments drew a glare from Stewart who was also present at the media event. Nair was quick to let Stewart know that although they are happy with their current lineup, it doesn’t mean they don’t have room for someone like Stewart.
Not that we wouldn’t be happy if you were in it. He’s also got those eyes that burn, you can really feel it. So if he stays in shape and makes sure he can handle 24-hour races …
Following the exchange Stewart told the media that “I have incentive now” in regards to making sure he is able and ready to compete at Le Mans with Team Ford.
Given Stewart’s diverse racing history and his accomplishments as a driver, it should not come as a surprise that he would be interested in competing in this event. Despite retiring from NASCAR last season, Stewart has already scheduled more than 70 races for himself for the 2017 season and as of a few weeks ago he was still looking to add another 10-15 events to his schedule.
This is on top of what he does for Eldora, the track that he owns and his duties with Stewart-Haas Racing. When Stewart walked away from NASCAR after 2016 he made it clear that he wasn’t retiring, he just wasn’t running NASCAR anymore and he has proven that in 2017. Heck, I wouldn’t even be surprised he if did make a NASCAR appearance in 2017 when the Truck Series takes to the dirt later in the year.