KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (Sept. 30, 2015) — He felt like it was just the “right time” to do it.
Tony Stewart, three-time NASCAR champion, announced his plans Wednesday to retire from driving full-time in the racing series.
"Next year will be my last year in the Sprint Cup Series. It was a choice that was 100 percent mine," Stewart, a Columbus, Ind., native, said. "I think deep down, you know when it's time to do something different.
“Everybody in their career at some point makes the decision it’s time for a change,” Stewart said.
Stewart, 44, won titles in 2002, 2005 and 2011 as a driver and in 2011 and 2014 as an owner. Stewart-Haas Racing announced that Clint Bowyer would replace Stewart in 2017. Bowyer called it an “unbelievable opportunity” to replace “Smoke” in the No. 14 car.
In recent years, injuries have hampered Stewart. In 2013, he missed the last 15 races after breaking his leg during a sprint car race. In 2014, Stewart was involved in a sprint car crash that claimed the life of driver Kevin Ward. Jr. Stewart was not criminally charged in connection with the crash after a grand jury investigated it. Ward’s family later filed a civil suit.
Stewart will still stay connected to the racing world as a co-owner at Stewart-Haas racing, he said. He’ll still interact with sponsors and still be at the track. He also said the announcement was solely focused on the Sprint Cup circuit.
"I'm still going to race. I'm not retiring from racing, I'm just retiring from the Sprint Cup Series," Stewart said.
Stewart told reporters there were several events he’d like to race in. Previously, his NASCAR commitments prevented him from participating in those events. Stewart also said he considered retiring at the end of the current NASCAR season. However, after seeing the fan response to Jeff Gordon's final year, he wanted to give his fans one last season.