Tony Stewart celebrated another “last” on Wednesday, unveiling a throwback Bobby Allison Coca-Cola paint scheme for September’s race at Darlington Raceway – Stewart’s final Southern 500.
Or is it? After all, Jeff Gordon went through a year of “lasts” in 2015, when he retired at the end of the season. But when Gordon was needed as a substitute driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr., he quickly answered the call from team owner Rick Hendrick. He already has raced twice for Earnhardt and will make at least two more starts this year.
So isn’t it possible that after Stewart retires from NASCAR, he could potentially come back and –
“No,” Stewart said Wednesday, cutting off a reporter. “Let me help you not waste breath here. No, not doing it.”
Stewart then hedged a bit, saying if it was just for one week and his race team was in desperate need of a substitute, then “obviously I’m 100% dedicated to Stewart-Haas Racing and if that’s what it took, I’d be there in a heartbeat.”
But he quickly added: “I don’t want to come back and run five or six races.”
One reason, he said, is because of the increased demands. The sport’s advancements in technology means there are troves of data to sort through after practices, and “that’s time-consuming,” he said.
“I spend more time than I ever have looking at it now,” he added.
Allison certainly didn’t have to worry about studying data when he was running the gold and red Coke paint scheme on his car en route to winning the 1971 and 1972 Southern 500s. The NASCAR Hall of Famer was all smiles, as usual, when discussing Stewart’s tribute car.
“I really like the guy and his attitude, and I’m proud he selected this look for this event,” Allison said.
Stewart, who is looking for his first win in the Southern 500 on Sept. 4, said the throwback paint scheme honoring Allison is a sign of things coming full circle because Allison was the first NASCAR driver he saw race. He can distinctly remember watching from the grandstands at a track in Scottsburg, Ind., as Allison drove a Dirt Late Model with the Coke paint scheme around the bottom groove.
He finished eighth, Stewart said.
“I don’t even remember what I had for breakfast, but I can remember that,” he added.
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