The Racing Capital
of the World
December 04, 2012 | By John Oreovicz
It started as on-stage banter (or maybe boasting) by Roger Penske at the NASCAR championship banquet.
It’s turned into a grassroots movement.
Apparently, where there’s Smoke, there’s fire. Because it’s obvious that people have a burning desire to see Tony Stewart take up Penske’s offer to provide a car to compete in the 2013 Indianapolis 500.
“A fast car,” in the words of Penske Racing President Tim Cindric, via Twitter.
Stewart hasn’t publicly responded yet, but he is expected to when he shows up at this weekend’s International Motorsport Industry Show in Indianapolis.
Meanwhile, the fans are speaking – electronically, via an online petition called ‘Smoke2Indy’ (http://www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com/indy500/news/show/type/news/51994-smoke2indy-petition/) - at the rate of about 100 an hour.
I haven’t signed the petition yet, but I believe the prospect of Stewart coming back home again to Indiana to race in the Indianapolis 500 – especially for Team Penske - is great on a number of levels.
In fact, I wrote a list of 33 reasons why I think it’s a good idea:
33. Stewart truly appreciates Indianapolis 500 traditions like a 33-car starting field.
32. He can sleep in his own bed near Columbus every night and still drive to work.
31. The last time Penske sprung an ‘Unfair Advantage’ on the Indianapolis 500 field (1994 with the Mercedes-Ilmor ‘pushrod’ engine), Al Unser Jr. won the race in car #31.
30. Stew’s presence would create a lot of buzz for the Indianapolis 500.
29. It would also create buzz (and lead-in viewers) for NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway later in the day.
28. You know he really wants to do it.
27. It would give the media something to get excited about. Remember the frenzy Stewart created when he showed up on Bump Day a few years ago and led everyone into thinking he was going to jump into a car?
26. How many chances come along in a lifetime to drive for Penske Racing at Indianapolis?
25. He would confirm his standing as the most versatile racecar driver in the world.
24. He could eat breakfast every day at Charlie Brown’s Steak & Pancake House on Main Street.
23. He can prove that fitness is more than meets the eye.
22. He might inspire or encourage other NASCAR drivers to try “doing the double.”
21. He might inspire or encourage some IndyCar Series drivers to try “doing the double.”
20. To remind folks that he raced #20 his rookie year of Indy cars back in 1996.
19. He’ll be 42, and he’s not going to get any younger.
18. To relive the days of his youth shooting pool at Kelly’s Pub.
17. For a little variety from the monotonous 38-weekend NASCAR schedule.
16. To make the storyline of what would be Roger Penske’s record 16th Indianapolis 500 victory a lot more compelling.
15. As somebody who drove in the early days of the IRL, he can tell us just how far Indy cars have advanced in the last fifteen years.
14. Because it would make his hero proud. That’s A.J. Foyt, if you didn’t know.
13. Did I mention how rarely opportunities comes along to drive for Penske at Indianapolis? Or anywhere else, for that matter?
12. Because it will have been twelve years since his last Indy 500 start (6th place driving for Ganassi Racing in 2001).
11. To try to notch up 1,100 miles of racing in a single day, like he did in 2001 when he finished sixth at Indy and third at Charlotte.
10. To give David Letterman material for a Top Ten list. Or a reason to be invited back to The Late Show.
9. So he can experience Indy’s ‘Fast Nine’ Pole Day format for the first time.
8. To re-live the thrill of moonlighting on his boss, something he hasn’t been able to do since he became the owner of Stewart-Haas Racing in NASCAR.
7. Because he loves to drive anything with wheels, anytime, anywhere.
6. A Penske tradition, it’s the number he would probably run at Indy.
5. Driving for Penske would give Stewart an excellent chance to improve on his career best Indy 500 finish of 5th place in 1997.
4. To add to his IMS legend, which includes two victories in the Brickyard 400 in 2005 and ‘07.
3. His home of Bartholomew County used to be ‘3’ in the old Indiana license plate numbering system he grew up with.
2. He could drink 2-percent milk in Victory Lane.
And the Number One reason why Tony Stewart should compete in the 2013 Indianapolis 500…
For the fans.