Stewart opts not to race in Indy 500

April 22, 2003 at 2:49 AM
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BAKERSFIELD, Calif., April 22 (UPI) -- Defending NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Tony Stewart revealed Monday that he will not race in the Indianapolis 500 next month.

It had been reported that Stewart, who left the Indy Racing League in 1998, might compete in the 87th running of Indy 500 on May 25 and NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 the same day in Charlotte.

"It's flattering to know that my name still comes up this time of year as someone teams want to have in their car at Indy," Stewart said in a statement regarding the rumor. "But as I've said from the beginning of the season, I am not going to compete in the Indianapolis 500, and my reasons are the same. I need to take care of what I signed up to do here with Joe Gibbs Racing. There are 200 employees at Joe Gibbs Racing, making all sorts of sacrifices to provide me with everything I need to go out and win races. When you go back and forth between Indy and Charlotte, it puts a strain on the entire team. As much as my heart wants to do it, I can't justify putting my personal ambitions ahead of the sacrifices made by my race team."

Stewart, who has yet to win a Winston Cup race this year and currently is seventh in the standings, is the only driver ever to complete the Indianapolis 500 and a NASCAR event the same day. Two years ago, he came in sixth in the Indy 500 and third in the Coca-Cola 600.

Last year, he elected not to attempt the double.

"If I get a chance to go back someday and the circumstances are right, I will," Stewart said. "I think it's about priorities. I'm not going to say I'm getting wiser as I'm getting older, because I'm not sure that has ever been the case, but at least I'm trying to take care of the people who are working hard for me each week."

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