Four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers concluded a two-day Goodyear tire test Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For three-time series champion Tony Stewart, it wrapped up what he said would be the final tire test of his career.
Stewart joined last weekend's winner Carl Edwards, Aric Almirola and rookie Chase Elliott among drivers involved at the Brickyard, helping Goodyear officials determine the proper tire compound for the Sprint Cup Series' annual visit on July 24. Stewart was fresh from his season debut at Richmond International Raceway, where he placed 19th after missing eight races with a broken back suffered in an all-terrain vehicle incident Jan. 31.
As was the case Sunday at Richmond, Stewart was in good spirits as he eased back into full-time racing in what is scheduled to be his final NASCAR season as a driver.
"I'm actually having fun up here," said Stewart, an Indiana native. "This is my last tire test as a driver, so I've been having fun working with the Goodyear guys and it's been kind of fun because three of the main guys here when I started here are at this test, which they don't always get to come to the same test together. It's kind of nice to be working with them one last time.
"It's nice to be home and I think any chance, any time that we've had an opportunity to go test here, I always jumped on it. I don't like to go test -- it's boring to me -- but I've always liked any chance I got to come up to Indy and test. That's something I always wanted to do."
Stewart's next NASCAR appearance at the venerable Speedway is scheduled this summer, when he'll compete in what will likely be his final Indianapolis race. The 44-year-old Stewart said he's had less chance to reminisce about his memories of the home-state track than to get accustomed to the reduced-downforce aerodynamics package that made its debut this year.
"It's probably more just fresh on my mind of being back in the car. I haven't driven with this low-downforce package other than just Richmond last weekend, which you aren't really going to see a big effect of it. Being here and seeing how much different it feels, it's fun to kind of get acclimated again and that's the big thing that I wanted to leave here with was just feeling like that I was up to speed with what the aero package was and knowing what the feel is like."
Edwards has won the last two Sprint Cup races, including last Sunday's bump-and-run past Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch to prevail at Richmond. Edwards said he hadn't had a chance to speak with Busch about the incident with his quick transition from the Virginia short track to Indianapolis before heading to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend.
Edwards' more immediate focus was to provide feedback to Goodyear engineers after a battery of tests at the historic 2.5-mile track.
"There's a lot of stuff to learn here," Edwards said. "This track, it's difficult for a number of reasons, but really for me, just the weather today versus yesterday, it's hard to determine how much of it is the weather. As the track changes, the Goodyear rubber lays down, it changes. The challenge for us is as we make these changes with the car to try to separate the track changes and the temperature changes from the actual changes to the car.
"So it's a pretty difficult place to test and to figure things out, but that kind of makes it fun. We've got my crew chief and my team of engineers over there, and I mean they are going through every … I mean, they're really over there thinking and working hard, and those kind of challenges are fun."