Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart enjoyed his time back behind the wheel of a stock car at Circuit of The Americas and gave the track his vote of confidence to hold a NASCAR race.
Thursday, Stewart drove a No. 14 Ford Mustang around the 20-turn, 3.426-mile road course that was purpose-built for Formula 1. Stewart’s demo took place days before F1 competes at the facility.
Haas F1 drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen rode shotgun with Stewart before they were given the chance to drive.
According to Stewart, the car had just a baseline setup put in, which he said didn’t feel bad on track. “But it would be really nice to have a whole day where we could make a lot of spring changes, bar changes, and do the things that we do at a test session,” Stewart said afterward. “But to be able to go out there and run laps, it was fun. Sad part is, it’s kind of frustrating because it’s kind of giving me the itch to want to get back in (a NASCAR stock car), and I swore I’d never get back in one when I retired.
“To be able to come here today, that was a lot of fun,” continued Stewart. “To be able to come to a new track that I’ve never been around before. I never had even seen a whole lap, didn’t know what the layout of the track was. Literally, a friend of mine sent me a YouTube video of in-car of a Trans Am car so I could at least see what a lap looked like. That was three days ago. Two nights ago, I went to a friend’s house and got on iRacing and could at least make laps in a computer car.”
Stewart described the track as “really fun” and having a “lot of character.” COTA would be very technical for a stock car, but Stewart said timing and rhythm would come after a few laps.
While F1 competes at Austin’s COTA this weekend, Fort Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway is hosting the NASCAR Xfinity and Cup Series — something Stewart labeled “asinine.” This isn’t the first time the two tracks’ calendars have clashed, and Stewart called out the respective promoters for not learning from the first time.
But, as to whether NASCAR could put on a decent race at COTA Stewart responded, “Absolutely. Don’t tell Eddie Gossage (president of Texas Motor Speedway) that, he’ll get mad at me. But yeah. I think NASCAR is actually looking to run some more road course races, and after driving it there’s some really good passing opportunities on this track for our cars, and I think it would be a lot of fun to see a race here.”
Stewart said he expects to have a chat with NASCAR officials when he’s in the garage this weekend.
“I think it would be very realistic and very easy for NASCAR to come here,” he said. “The facility is already set up for it, and driving the track, there are definitely five legitimate, solid, passing opportunities on this track. That’s plenty to have a really good race here.”