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(LM Otero | The Associated Press) Tony Stewart, left, smiles as he talks to fellow driver Austin Dillon before they qualified for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, April 5, 2014. Stewart took pole position. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
NASCAR: Stewart marks 1-year anniversary of injury in Iowa
First Published Aug 06 2014 01:47 pm • Last Updated Aug 06 2014 11:24 pm

Charlotte, N.C. • Tony Stewart was exactly where he wanted to be when he marked the anniversary of the devastating injury that cost him the second half of last year’s NASCAR season.

He was trackside in Iowa at the Knoxville Nationals.

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The three-time Cup champion has not once wavered in his commitment to sprint car racing despite the crash in Iowa last August that led to a broken right leg. He marked the anniversary Tuesday night with a post on his Twitter account, noting his life changed one year ago: "Thank you to everyone that worked so hard to get me back to where I’m at today. It’s your life, live it!"

Stewart has competed in at least two sprint car races in the last month, and was scheduled to run a go-kart race Wednesday in a field that included Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson as part of Kick-It, a program that benefits the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation.

Stewart will head to Watkins Glen later this week for the Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

"I get the best of both worlds. I get to race with the best stock car drivers in the world every week, and I get to and run dirt tracks on either the off nights or sometimes during a Cup weekend I get to go sneak off for anything," he said.

Stewart’s passion is the grassroots level, where he began and learned to drive on many different surfaces. Now he enjoys going back and forth between the two.

"I like the challenge. I like the dirt tracks because they change all the time," he said. "Pavement tracks, when I got in the Cup series, the pavement racing I had done before that, tracks really didn’t change a lot. In the Cup series, the groove moves around and it gets wider and you might run the bottom for a little while and the top, and that’s a lot like dirt racing too.

"I like that challenge of trying to figure out as a driver what to do to make yourself better."

He understands there is criticism about his extracurricular racing, particularly after it sidelined him from his full-time job last season. But it’s what Stewart loves to do and he won’t give it up anytime soon.


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"Everybody has hobbies. Everybody has stuff they like to do when they have downtime, and that’s just what it is for me," he said. "That’s what I like to do when I have extra time. I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing it. I feel like there are a lot of other things I could be doing that are a lot more dangerous and a lot bigger waste of time with my time off do than doing that."

———

MOVING UP: When Scott Dixon made it to Victory Lane last weekend at Mid-Ohio, picking up his first win of the season, he moved up another spot on IndyCar’s all-time win list.

Dixon’s 34th career victory tied him for sixth all-time with Al Unser Jr., and he’s one victory shy of tying Bobby Unser for fifth.

Dixon is moving up the list faster than his predecessors. His 34th win came in his 235th start at age 34. Unser Jr.’s 34th win came in his 329th start at age 41. Bobby Unser won his 35th race in his 258th start.

Still, it’s been frustrating for the defending IndyCar champion that it took him this long to score his first win of the year and the first victory for the Chip Ganassi Racing organization. Dixon and his three teammates have been dealing with numerous issues all season.

"It’s a small bit of that with relief and knowing that we didn’t go a year without winning a race and that we can definitely try and close out this championship as strong as possible," Dixon said.

Dixon is sixth in the IndyCar standings with three races left and remains mathematically eligible for his fourth series title since 2002. He’s not looking that far ahead just yet, instead focusing on his Mid-Ohio win and how he can get back to Victory Lane in the remaining three races.

"Winning is a good feeling," he said. "I think having the year that we’ve had, you understand why the feeling is so good. Sometimes you can understand if one of us hasn’t won at this point, but all four of us?"

———

AMBROSE-NATIONWIDE: Five-time Watkins Glen winner Marcos Ambrose will race twice on the road course this weekend with Richard Petty Motorsports entering the Australian in the Nationwide Series race.

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