Smoke alarm: Old Tony Stewart could be back at the Brickyard

Jeff Hammond writes that Tony Stewart's return to sprint cars has given him a renewed sense of confidence that could pay dividends this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Tony Stewart has made a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes behind the wheel of his No. 14 Chevrolet this season, but hope that is in his rear-view mirror now.

Patrick Smith / NASCAR

Our buddy Tony Stewart got back into a dirt sprint car a couple times recently and actually won again.

In racing those things can mean a whole lot. Obviously he has fun, he gets a peace of mind and some comfort but obviously there is still risk involved. Tony is as much of a mental racer as well as a physical racer. You know what? He is actually probably more so a mental racer because he is so very smart and calculating on the race track. 

I'm glad he did it but when you boil it down, it really doesn't matter what any of us think. It's Tony's life and his decision to make. I think this is a personal demon that Tony had to conquer and he did. If anyone has been hurt doing something they love and I have, it is always difficult to go back and do something that hurt you. 

Once you do it again and prove to yourself that you can do it again, you gain a much-deserved renewed confidence. That's what Tony now has experienced. Don't get me wrong, it's not so much like it makes you feel like Superman, but it simply means you didn't let that demon control you. You overcame it and conquered it. 

I just think what Tony did getting back in those cars, not only driving them but winning in them again, was huge for him. I just think it was another part of his mental and physical therapy of "getting back." I honestly believe starting now to the end of the year we are going to see a different Tony Stewart in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. 

He was getting better and running okay, but Tony let a couple races slip through his fingers by making mistakes. You never think of Tony making mental errors like the couple speeding penalties he got earlier this year. 

So I am thinking this weekend, at the race track he holds so close and dear to his heart, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we may see the Tony Stewart of old reemerge at exactly the right time. 

A look back at Tony Stewart winning the 2005 Brickyard 400

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