That means showing up in March for the start of the IndyCar Series season, not in May for the start of Indy 500 practice.
"If I am going to do it, I need to start at Homestead (Fla.) and I need to run all the races leading up to the month of May to really feel like I am being fair to the team and being fair to myself," Stewart said. "I'm not going to be one of these guys who just shows up and runs the Indy 500. I've run the Indy 500. I want to win the Indy 500."
The Columbus, Ind., native dropped by Indianapolis Motor Speedway on a rainy afternoon for a news conference with Chevrolet officials and Tony Stewart Racing drivers Tracy Hines and Levi Jones to unveil the engine the company has developed for Stewart's U.S. Auto Club midget team.
Stewart also roamed the garages catching up with old friends before heading back to his real job, which this weekend takes him to a Sprint Cup race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
The most recent of Stewart's five Indy 500 starts came in 2001 when he placed sixth. He has since won NASCAR's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard twice, but the two-time NASCAR champion and 1997 IndyCar Series champion has said several times his resume won't feel complete until it includes wins in the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500.
"There's part of me that thinks running at Indy and in IndyCar is a chapter of my life that is closed," he said, "and then there is the emotional part of me that says, 'Never say never.' I don't know if I will ever get in an Indy car again, but if that happens, it's obviously going to be a long way down the road because I have a lot of commitments on the NASCAR side."
Stewart said he is weighing "a laundry list of factors" as he contemplates whether to stay at Joe Gibbs Racing or consider one of many offers to go elsewhere. But for the time being, at least, he still answers to team president J.D. Gibbs, who didn't want a repeat of four years ago when Stewart showed up at Indy on bump day and flirted with the idea of getting into an A.J. Foyt Enterprises car.
Said Stewart: "I was told by J.D. that I was not to grab a helmet or sit in a car, even for fun."
Foyt says son won't drive
Larry Foyt is on the 500's entry list and hopes to qualify the second car of A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
But Foyt's father, who owns the team, said Wednesday someone else will drive the car if it is used this month.
"I'm not letting him in it," A.J. Foyt said. "He's more important to me as (the team director) than he is as my driver. His future is running this team."
Larry Foyt, who graduated from Texas Christian University, drove in three consecutive 500s, the most recent in 2006, never finishing better than 30th. He had a brief but undistinguished NASCAR career.
"He's a good driver and knows what he's doing, but he doesn't have a killer instinct," A.J. Foyt said. "He's also broke his back once, and I don't want that to happen again."
Larry Foyt remains hopeful he'll climb into the seat but said it depends more on landing sponsorship.
He understands how protective his father is about family members.
"It's really hard when you're related to A.J. and you drive for him," he said. "He's always afraid you're going to get hurt."
Mexican driver Mario Dominguez, whose Pacific Coast Motorsports car is sponsored by his home country, said the official tourism group from Mexico City will be at the track this weekend to meet with Indy Racing League officials about a possible IndyCar Series race next year in Mexico City. . . . Chief steward Brian Barnhart said no more rookies will be allowed to join the field, so any teams showing up next week will need to have drivers with Indy 500 experience. . . . The rainout Wednesday cost Butler basketball coach Brad Stevens his chance to wave the green flag to open practice. The forecast isn't much better for Indiana coach Tom Crean's opportunity today.