Retiring Tony Stewart: ‘Can’t imagine there is not more to life than this’

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Tony Stewart is retiring as NASCAR Sprint Cup driver at the end of this season, and he wants to make it clear why he’s getting out.

“I’m just ready to do different things,” the 45-year-old Stewart said recently. “This is a grueling schedule. Anybody who thinks this is an easy job is fooling themselves. There are still people who literally think all we do is show up on Friday and race through Sunday and we have four days off during the week.”

That is not the case for regular drivers – and certainly is not the case for a driver like Stewart who also happens to double as co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing. He has made it clear that he intends to continue being very involved in that role going forward.

“I can promise you my role with Stewart‑Haas is much deeper than that,” Stewart said. “Even the wintertime is – the wintertime is actually our busiest time at the shop. It’s a 12‑month‑a‑year job.

“I still love what I do, I still love the sport. That’s why I’m excited to be an owner in this series – because I get to do everything I’m doing, not just driving the car. So that part gives me enough flexibility to do some of the other things that I want to do. It’s just the right time for us. I mean, we started thinking about this four or five years ago, of starting to plan for the future.”

Stewart, 45, admitted that there are non-racing things he’s going to want to do during his retirement after a long career that included three NASCAR Premier Series championships.

“Yeah, I’m just not sure what they all are yet,” he said. “That is the thing. When you’ve raced for 38 years, that is all you know, it’s all you think about, that’s all you dream about. When you wake up, you’re thinking about it. While you’re eating breakfast, that is all you do.

“I just can’t imagine that there is not more to life than this. I know there is. I know people who talk about it all the time. I’ve got friends like (former drag-racing champion) Don Prudhomme and (former NASCAR championship crew chief) Ray Evernham and guys who are already retired who talk about how much fun they are having. I’m like, ‘Man that sounds like a good time to me.’ ”