INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — All week, Tony Stewart downplayed the significance of his final race at Indianapolis.
He promised not to cry, not to get sentimental.
When the Brickyard 400 ended Sunday, he backtracked a bit by inviting current friend and former rival Jeff Gordon to share one final lap with him at their home track. They drove slowly around the 2.5-mile oval, side-by-side, waving to the fans who had cheered them for so many years.
“It’s probably the last time we’ll be competing here, and I couldn’t think of a better guy to share that moment with,” Stewart said after finishing 11th.
Not long ago, that kind of scene seemed an impossibility.
Stewart’s fierce, sometimes temperamental personality often clashed with Gordon’s generally good-natured, low-key demeanor to life and racing.
But over the past five years, the two Indiana drivers with similar backgrounds developed a bond and became close enough friends that they wanted to add another memorable chapter to the long history at this 2.5-mile oval.