CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Tony Stewart won't be back in a sprint car, by his own estimation, for ''a very, very long time.''
But the three-time NASCAR champion can't bear to be away from the grass-roots level of racing, and he has added another piece to his growing portfolio by acquiring the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series - one of the oldest, traveling sprint car organizations in the country.
''My passion for sprint car racing is well known, and the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series has been a pillar of the sport for a long time,'' Stewart said Wednesday. ''Racing is my business, and I look forward to building on the All Star Series' already impressive legacy by taking it to a new level of success and sustainability.''
Stewart's latest acquisition is the first racing series he owns outright. Stewart also owns Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, and fields two World of Outlaws cars out of Tony Stewart Racing. He also is co-owner of NASCAR's four-team Stewart-Haas Racing, which won the Sprint Cup title last season with Kevin Harvick.
His passion for sprint car racing has caused tremendous heartache over the last two years. Stewart broke his leg in a 2013 sprint car accident in Iowa that has had lingering repercussions on his career. He missed the final 15 races of the NASCAR season, has had four surgeries on his right leg and faces a fifth to remove a titanium rod at the end of this year.
He returned to a sprint car roughly 11 months after the accident and won in his first outing. But just days after the one-year anniversary of his accident, he was involved in an incident at an upstate New York dirt track in which his car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. as the driver walked on the track.
Stewart has said he doesn't know if he'll ever race a sprint car again, and he reiterated it Tuesday when asked several times if he'll return to his first love.
''I think it's going to be a long, long time before you see me back in one,'' Stewart said.
But he's slowly returned to the sprint car scene. He spent a week in Arizona with his TSR team and played crew chief in one of Steve Kinser's victories. Then he went to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the Chili Bowl, and spent a week working on the track preparation crew.
''Obviously, the last few years of my life, I wouldn't mind forgetting,'' Stewart said. ''But this is something that allows me to be involved with sprint car racing. This allows me to be around it, and that is a product of doing something with these guys and it fills a void.''
Now he's acquired the winged sprint car series from Guy Webb, who said he had ''great peace of mind to hand over the reins'' to Stewart.
''Tony is dirt track racing's biggest advocate, and he's always working in the best interest of sprint car racing. His leadership will ensure the success of this series for many years to come,'' Webb said.
Stewart reached a separate agreement with Rob Hunter and Shane Helms, principals of the Renegade Sprint Series, for both series to merge under the All Star Circuit of Champions banner in 2015.
The merger ends a feud between the two series, which had been jockeying for territory.
The new 2015 UNOH All Star Circuit of Champions schedule will include 50 race dates. The national point fund will be more than $100,000.
The season will begin next month at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida, then move to Volusia Speedway Park near Barberville, Florida, the next weekend in events that will not count for points because they fall during the ownership transition.
The first point race toward the national point fund will be March 28 at Atomic Speedway near Chillicothe, Ohio. The season championship will be held in Rossburg, Ohio, at Eldora Speedway, one of Stewart's properties.
The series will also race on June 11 at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, the New York dirt track where Ward was killed. Stewart is not planning to participate as a driver in his new series, at least not any time soon.