Monday, January 21, 2013

Stewart considers Indy 500 offer "open-ended"

   At the NASCAR awards banquet in Las Vegas in November, team owner Roger Penske made what he said was a serious offer to field an entry for Tony Stewart in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 if he would like to give the "double" - running the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day - another try.
   Stewart passed on the offer and on Monday on the Sprint NASCAR Media Tour, talked more in-depth about the offer and where he thinks is stands now.
   “It's a huge opportunity, and a very flattering offer at the same time," Stewart said. "This group up here is why I'm not going to run the 500. There's a lot of commitment with what we're doing here, and like we mentioned, IndyCar racing has progressed and the competition has gotten tighter and tighter there. I really don't feel like ‑ I feel like that's the perfect team to go and do enough with the month of May with. 
   "But I still feel like for me as a driver, I would need to start the year with that team and run through the month of May to really feel like the first day of practice that I was competitive and where I needed to be. It's a very flattering offer. I went back to Roger and actually had dinner with him in Indianapolis after the IMIS trade show reception, and I told him he ‑ not necessarily backed me into a corner but he made me a generous offer and I made him a counteroffer that it's an open‑ended invitation. 
   "Even though we haven't accepted this year, maybe some year down the road we might be able to accept that offer. He never said no, so as far as I'm concerned, we have an open invitation to run it with him."

Kevin Harvick: "Change can't be bad."

   Kevin Harvick remained tight-lipped about where he would be racing in 2014 but insisted he planned to make his final season at Richard Childress Racing a “character-building year.”

    “I want to go out and have fun and hopefully leave this place as good as it was when I got here if not better,” said Harvick, who is expected to join Stewart-Haas Racing next year.

   “You want to do everything to participate in everything you can do to make the cars as fast as you can. I have a lot of friends here and I want to leave here with it that way.”

   Harvick was the only RCR driver to win a Cup race in 2012 and that was late in the season after he had reunited with crew chief Gil Martin. Martin and Harvick will work together again this season.

    Harvick, 36, doesn’t believe he or his No. 29 team have anything to prove to detractor who think they can’t find success in a “lame duck” season.

   “The biggest thing to prove is who you are as people,” he said. “The bottom line is the cars have to run good, whether it’s this year or the years to come. There is a lot of effort being poured into that.”

   Harvick began his career with RCR in 1999, running the fall race at Rockingham in what is now known as the Nationwide Series. He completed 34 laps before engine failure sent him to the garage.

    In 2001, he took over driving duties for the Sprint Cup team of Dale Earnhardt after Earnhardt was killed in a last-lap wreck in the Daytona 500.

   “It’s been a great journey but sometimes you just need a change in pace to keep the enthusiasm where it needs to be. It’s made my enthusiasm high for this year,” Harvick said.

   “I think my first race with Richard was in October 1999 and we’ve won Nationwide championships, 19 Cup races, 30 to 40 Nationwide races, Truck races. We’ve been through a lot of different situations.

   “Change can’t be bad.”