Three-time NASCAR cup champion Tony Stewart plans to retire from racing, completing one of the sport’s greatest careers and ending two tumultuous years for the famed driver. Sources told motorsport.com that the 44-year-old will announce on Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET at Stewart-Haas Racing headquarters in Kannapolis, North Carolina, that the 2016 season will be his last.
Stewart's decision to call it quits isn’t considered a surprise, with Stewart failing to win a race in the last two years. According to CBS News, he has privately tried to find a replacement for his No. 14 Chevrolet all season.
Marked by a two crashes with one ending in a fatality and after struggling to capture his past form, Stewart had dropped out of NASCAR’s elite group of drivers. The Indiana native is currently 25th in the points standings and failed to make the Chase for the Cup this season. Stewart didn’t even finish in the top five in any race this season and pulled off only two top 10 finishes in 28 starts.
And 2014 was only barely better. Stewart claimed one pole and three top five finishes to also come in 25th by the end of the season.
However, the last two years can’t mar what’s been a stellar and likely Hall of Fame career. From 2002 to 2011, Stewart won his three Cup titles and he’s tied for 13th all-time with 48 Cup race victories.
It’s of little coincidence that Stewart’s decline began in 2013. He suffered a broken right leg in a sprint car race at Southern Iowa Speedway that August, and required surgery that would cut his season short.
Stewart needed another surgery, but came back to NASCAR in 2014 only to have tragedy strike again in August in a sprint cup car. Twenty-year-old driver Kevin Ward Jr. jumped out of his car during a dirt-track race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York in an effort to confront Stewart on the track for apparently jettisoning him into the wall. As Stewart came back around on his next lap, he struck and killed Ward.
After a grand jury investigation, no criminal charges were filed against Stewart, but he is currently facing a civil lawsuit brought by Ward’s family and no trial date has been set yet.
Stewart admitted last month that both accidents are still with him when he’s on the track.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be the same from what happened the last two years,” Stewart said at Texas Motor Speedway this summer according to motorsports.com. “I don’t know how you could be, I don’t know how anybody ever could be back to exactly the way they were.
“But not being back exactly the same that I was doesn’t mean that I haven’t become better in some way. I think there’s always positives that come out of every scenario.”