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Smoke ready for Cocopah Speedway

RANDY HOEFT – – In 2013, Tony Stewart will race more sprint car races than NASCAR Sprint Cup races.

It’s just the way “Smoke” likes it, spending as much time as he can on dirt, which includes coming to Cocopah Speedway for the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series National Tour Cocopah Cup Challenge presented by Cocopah Casino on March 1 and 2.

Stewart, speaking Thursday afternoon during a NASCAR Media Day interview with the Yuma Sun and Outlaw Country AM 1400, said he and his Tony Stewart Racing team are planning on racing over 50 sprint car races this season.

“It’s something I’m passionate about, short track racing, especially dirt track racing,” said Stewart. “So any chance I can to get away … we’re shooting for over 50 sprint car races this year. And when you think about our Cup schedule that we run, we run 38 races there, so I’m actually going to be running more sprint car races than NASCAR races this year.”

Stewart said his competition director at Tony Stewart Racing, Jimmy Carr, talked about going to Cocopah Speedway and made the recommendation.

“Any place I haven’t been he kind of gives the blessing on whether we should go there or not,” said Stewart. “And that was one place that he was advised about … and when we saw it was on the schedule it was a perfect opportunity for us to come over and run.

“It’s a great series that will be running there and a good group of guys that we’re racing with. So it made it pretty exciting for us to know that it was a good show coming up and someplace that was going to be close by that we can make.”

By “close by,” Stewart was referring to the fact that he will already be in Phoenix, competing in the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, the second stop on the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup calendar. That race is scheduled for March 3. He will make the trek back and forth to Cocopah Speedway to compete in the Friday and Saturday night events, driving the No.14, Chevrolet Performance Parts sprint car.

“Out there in Yuma is a great facility from what we’ve heard,” continued Stewart.

“I’m excited. Something that I enjoy is going to places I haven’t been, and that’s something I’m really looking forward to. We’ve ran a lot of tracks in Arizona and always had a good following there, so it’s going to be nice for us to get a chance to come to a new place and give the fans who don’t get a chance to come out and see us very much to come out and watch us run a sprint car.”

Coincidentally, the ASCS National Tour will return to Cocopah Speedway for two nights of racing on Nov. 8 and 9, the same weekend that NASCAR returns to Phoenix International Raceway for the next to last race in the Chase to the Sprint Cup.

Stewart said his making another trip to Cocopah Speedway depends on how well he’s doing in the NASCAR championship scene. However, he also did not count out a return appearance.

“The hard part about committing to November is not knowing where we’re at in the Cup standings,” he said. “If we’re in a bid for the Sprint Cup championship it will make it harder to be able to come and run those extra two or three races late in the year.

“But we’ll have to see what happens. I hope we’re in a position where we’re worrying about the Cup car by then, but if not it wouldn’t hurt my feelings to be able to come out and race a couple of nights again.”

Stewart said if he had to make a choice of only one type of race car to drive, it was no surprise when he said he would most likely want to stay on the dirt.

“There is something about every division we run that we really, really enjoy, but I don’t know, I would say at this point in my career if they said I could only drive one, I probably would drive a sprint car,” he said.

“I’ve really had a lot of fun in the last couple of years in particular. We’re trying to make over 50 races this year and that’s already with a hectic Cup schedule that’s normally three days a week, so being able to go and run all those races, you gotta have a lot of passion to want to do that and it’s something that we’re having a good time and enjoying doing.”

Having won three NASCAR championships, an Indy Car championship, four USAC championships and the first USAC Triple Crown championship, along with an IROC championship, Stewart said there are still goals he hasn’t met in his racing career. One of them is driving a top fuel dragster.

“I don’t necessarily want to race, but I want to learn how to drive one, I want to drive over 300 mph in one,” he said. “So that’s definitely a goal before I retire.”

Photo Credit: Tony Stewart Racing