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Tony Stewart said Wednesday that his decision to retire from the Sprint Cup Series was 100 percent his.
The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion seemed at ease and was self-deprecating as he announced he would be stepping away from the No. 14 car at the end of the 2016 season. Stewart's retirement will come after 18 years in the Sprint Cup Series. He currently has 48 wins, though he hasn't won since 2013.
Stewart, 44, said he had thought about retiring at the end of the 2015 season. However, he cited Jeff Gordon's retirement tour this season as inspiration for waiting another year. Gordon said in January that 2015 would be his last season in the Cup Series before moving to the announcing booth.
"To be perfectly honest there was a really good possibility that this would have happened at the end of this year," Stewart said. "And the reason that we decided is 100 percent because of the fans that have supported us through the years ... I've been able to follow what Jeff's done this year and see how much it's meant to the fans to watch him race and the knowledge and knowing that it's their last year to watch him, that's important to me to be able to do this for our fans who have stuck with us through thick and thin and supported us."
Stewart won't be doing TV in 2017. He'll still have his hands full being the co-owner of a four-car team at Stewart-Haas Racing. SHR currently also fields cars for Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Danica Patrick. The team also made it official on Wednesday that Clint Bowyer would replace Stewart in 2017 behind the wheel of the No. 14 car.
Bowyer, who is considered likely to drive for HScott Motorsports on a one-year deal in 2016, is leaving Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of the season.
Stewart won two Sprint Cup championships with Joe Gibbs Racing. He was offered a 50-percent stake in what was Haas CNC Racing before the 2009 season and seized the opportunity to be a Sprint Cup owner.
Haas CNC was a Cup Series backmarker before Stewart joined. The team formed a strong technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart was in victory lane before the halfway point of his debut season. He won his third championship in 2011 and Stewart-Haas won a second championship in 2014 with Harvick.
"But without Tony, we never would have turned in to the super team that we are now, winning two championships," co-owner Gene Haas said.
Harvick addressed Stewart's retirement on Instagram.
Stewart is currently 25th in the Sprint Cup standings. His last win came at Dover in June of 2013. He missed parts of 2013 and 2014. He broke his leg in a sprint car accident in August 2013 and missed the remainder of the season. In 2014, he missed three races after he hit and killed Kevin Ward in a sprint car race. Stewart was not criminally charged in the incident. The Ward family filed a civil lawsuit this past August.
Stewart said the broken leg and the Ward tragedy had "zero percent" effect on his decision to retire from the Cup Series. He hasn't run sprint cars since he struck Ward but said he won't be done racing completely after the 2016 season.
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