SPEEDWAY, Ind. (WISH) – Race car enthusiasts got to enjoy a special gift meant for soon-to-be retired driver Tony Stewart.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway built a dirt track inside turn three to honor the racing legend. Tuesday night, an exhibition was held to test it out.
“Those back wheels get going and they get sideways and fling dirt and you would swear that they’re going to wreck and they don’t,” said Mary Morgan of Greenfield, one of the lucky few who got to watch around half a dozen United States Auto Club Midget race cars whip around the dirt oval. She’s also a huge Stewart fan and couldn’t pass up on the chance to watch him race the way he did when he was younger.
“I used to watch him in dirt track racing and I had the opportunity to come out today and was just really excited to do that,” Morgan said.
Other dirt track drivers like Davey Ray were equally excited for the chance to take a spin inside IMS. Sure it’s not the legendary 2.5 mile oval, but he’s still inside the historic venue.
“A lot of us have dreams of racing at the Indy Motor Speedway some day and these cars are some of them that would allow us to do that inside the track here,” Ray said. “They’re just really kind of hand-to-hand combat type of cars. They produce a lot of excellent racing so if they could produce a more permanent facility here for us to race at, I think you’d see a full pit area.”
IMS President Doug Boles said, “There are a lot of guys who are Midget racers or Sprint car racers who have never seen a way that they could actually race at (IMS) someday.”
Boles noted that connecting with Stewart’s passion for dirt racing was the perfect way to honor him.
“Racing exists because of the grassroots racer, the people that go to their local racetrack every Saturday night, the people that compete at those racetracks,” said Boles. “To be able to have an opportunity to bring that to the Speedway is a pretty special thought and pretty special idea.”
An idea that the drivers and fans hope will happen more often. If that were to be the case, Boles said the track would have to be bigger and be made of clay instead of dirt. “And even if we did, it wouldn’t be something that was an every weekend kind of activity, sort of like having the Rolling Stones at IMS.”
That’s alright with Ray. All he wants is a chance to race in front of a full crowd and take the checkered flag at his hometown track.
“There would be a definite large gathering of cars and when you build it they will come,” Ray said.
“I think IMS has done a great job of bringing other things into the track besides just the (Indy) 500,” added Morgan. “And I think if they built a permanent track out here that there would be a lot of people that would be wanting to come out and watch them race.”