Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart is looking forward to his first run in a Formula 1 car as he confirmed he is set to swap drives with McLaren-Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in a demonstration run at Watkins Glen this summer.
Stewart, whose Stewart Haas NASCAR team is sponsored by longtime McLaren backer and test organizer Mobil 1, will drive last year's grand prix-winning MP4-25 car (BELOW) at the track where F1 raced for 20 years between 1961 and 1980.
Speaking at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, scene of this weekend's NASCAR race, Stewart said he is excited about what he calls the "chance of a lifetime." He said he has already met with Hamilton during a commercial shoot earlier this year and expects to get some tips from the McLaren driver on how to get the most out of his run at Watkins Glen.
"Right now I am too busy worrying about what we're doing, but, I am excited about it," said Stewart. "It is an awesome opportunity. It is really a chance of a lifetime to drive something that is probably the most sophisticated racecar on the planet. It is going to be really cool to get a chance to do it.
"We did a commercial shoot day with Lewis and he is an awesome guy. We are really looking forward to talking to him about it and learning from him about what to do to drive his car fast."
The former IndyCar champion anticipates he will need to work on his fitness in order to be able to get the most out of his F1 opportunity. He expects his neck muscles to be put to the test, although he believes running in winged sprint cars on ovals will help him be up to the task.
"With the G-loads those cars pull, it won't surprise me at all [that the neck] is the area I am going to need to work on," said Stewart. "You don't really think of things like that, but those are aspects that you have to think about when you go to drive somebody else's cars.
"It is kind of the same as running the winged sprint car, they pull on your neck muscles a lot harder, too. Hopefully I will just keep running enough winged sprint car races and I'll get it in shape that way."
The demonstration run will take place on a different layout than the one on which Stewart has won a record five times in Cup, instead using the 3.3-mile configuration formerly used by IndyCar. The 39-year-old, who will be 40 by the time he drives the McLaren, just hopes to have fun with his run while showing Hamilton the nuances of driving a NASCAR machine.
"We are both going to be driving cars we are very unfamiliar with and I've never run that part of Watkins Glen so it will be interesting," said Stewart. "The whole thing of it is to have fun and just see what the other guy goes through and what his car drives like. It is going to be fun to have that opportunity to both drive his car and at the same time be able to help him learn how to drive ours."