Tony Stewart not only likes competing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he can’t seem to get enough of it.
Almost doesn’t matter what part of the complex.
Could be the speedway, the Dirt Track or the Bullring. Maybe Stewart will come back in a month when the NHRA makes its spring visit to the dragstrip.
Stewart competed in the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Cars Series this week at the Dirt Track.
And, oh, he has a side job as a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and defending champion of the Kobalt Tools 400, the 267-lap Cup race that begins at noon Sunday.
“This facility has got so much acreage in it and the ability to do so many things,” the 41-year-old Stewart said Friday. “To have a drag strip, a dirt track, a great 1.5-mile oval, the go-kart track, the Bullring. They’ve got a road course out there. This place has it all. That is something that is pretty cool.”
He remembered back to 2001 when he won two United States Auto Club events in a Bullring doubleheader.
“We’ve got pretty good memories of that place,” Stewart said. “It was fun. It’s a fun track.”
He also has fond memories of the speedway last year, breaking through to end a 13-year drought in Sprint Cup races in Las Vegas. Stewart pulled away from Jimmie Johnson on a restart with four laps remaining.
“Excited about coming back after a year that we won and a year before where we were a dominant car and ended up second,” Stewart said. “This place has been pretty good to us.”
Stewart will start ninth Sunday, his No. 14 Chevrolet lined up next to Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Chevy.
The lineup was based mostly on the points standings from last season after Friday’s qualifying and practice were rained out.
How much winning in Las Vegas last year will mean this weekend for Stewart is uncertain. NASCAR has gone to a new Generation-6 car, a faster version of the previous model.
Drivers tested the car at the speedway Thursday, and Stewart finished 17th in the morning at 184.786 mph and 26th in the afternoon at 184.811 mph. But he and the other drivers weren’t pushing the cars for speed, but rather to learn the nuances of how to handle it on the track.
He praised the new car, which generally has received good reviews, though most of the attention this week has been NASCAR’s $25,000 fine of Denny Hamlin for criticizing the Gen-6.
“The one thing you guys have got to understand when we all built these new cars, not one of them came with an instructional manual,” Stewart said. “You literally have to figure it out as you go. It’s impossible to give you an answer, an accurate answer. It is literally a work in progress.
“I personally think it’s off to a great start, and it’s got a lot of potential. We had good racing, we had a good finish, and everybody is going to keep learning.”
Stewart is coming off an eighth-place finish at Phoenix. That moved him up to 23rd in the standings; Stewart was part of a nine-car wreck on lap 34 at Daytona.
But as this week at the Dirt Track showed, Stewart will show up just about anywhere to race. He plans to compete in about 110 events this year, including 65 to 70 in Sprint Car races.
Stewart already has competed in six events outside of NASCAR.
“I don’t have a wife and kids to go home to,” he said, “so I get to race without getting yelled at.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.