IRL: "Smoke" and mirrors at Indy's Bump Day

IRL: "Smoke" and mirrors at Indy's Bump Day

Today's excitement at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a case of "what could have been," as NASCAR NEXTEL Cup star Tony Stewart showed up at his favorite track -- one of the few where he has not tasted the spoils of victory -- thinking of maybe...

Today's excitement at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a case of "what could have been," as NASCAR NEXTEL Cup star Tony Stewart showed up at his favorite track -- one of the few where he has not tasted the spoils of victory -- thinking of maybe qualifying for the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

Tony Stewart.
Photo by Thomas Chemris.
"When A.J. [Foyt] called me this morning," he explained, "I thought he was joking at first." Apparently Foyt had the notion to place Stewart in a third Toyota entry and run the former IndyCar Series champion next Sunday. "With the amount of phone calls he made, I noticed he was pretty serious," Stewart explained.

"Smoke's" enthusiasm for running the Indy 500 has never waned. He drove for Target Chip Ganassi Racing here two years ago and has long harbored the desire -- need -- to win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Would it happen in 2004?

As much as they tried to make it work, apparently Stewart would have needed releases from several contractual obligations to race at Indy this year. "I could promise you, I've got the fever again now, so if there's any way I can work with Joe Gibbs and Home Depot (his team owner and sponsor in NASCAR) and get something done for next year, we can get started today on that for next year."

According to his attorney and manager Cary Agajanian, who happened to be on site as part of the CURB/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports team campaigning PJ Jones this May, "It's a complicated world in racing now. Fifty years ago when you came out to the Indy 500, this was the only thing you concerned yourself with, but that's not the case anymore.

"Tony is a true racer, somebody who has had the same blood through his veins as a Parnelli Jones or an A.J. Foyt. And A.J. Foyt knows exactly what is going on here. Tony loves this race more than anything and wants to get in. And so he came in and started talking to Foyt and it just grew from there."

These are two emotional racers, Stewart and Foyt. It all happened so quickly while the skies were pouring rain. The IMS crews cleared the rain quickly from the track and pit road to enable Stewart and other qualified drivers to test before the witching hour of 6PM EST. Foyt put Stewart's name on the car, Simpson Racing Equipment found a suit and hat for Smoke to wear.

It started as a lark and ended up as a disappointment for everyone, though. "I just wish I could run for these people back here. There's people who stood out here in the rain when they found out we were going to do this. There's no better feeling than coming back home to Indiana and having support from these race fans today.

"I'm burning up. I'm sweating," Smoke explained. "I could be sitting up in a suite hanging out and drinking beer. A.J. and I are emotional about this place. We love the Speedway," Stewart declared. "It's like jungle fever. I've got it bad and I don't think this can be cured in a couple of weeks."

It was just "Smoke" and mirrors, folks. Let's wait until next year.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Parnelli Jones , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing