NASCAR champion Stewart will retire after 2016 season

FILE - In this Sept. 13, 2014, file photo, NASCAR driver Tony Stewart (14) looks out from his garage during a practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit against NASCAR driver Tony Stewart over the death of a driver he ran over during a race will remain in central New York. The Post-Standard of Syracuse reports the judge rejected a request from Stewart's lawyers to have the case transferred from Utica to Rochester. (AP Photo/Paul J. Bergstrom, File)

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (AP) — Tony Stewart says he will retire following the 2016 season.

The three-time NASCAR champion announced his decision Wednesday at the team shop in North Carolina, saying “next year will be my last year in the Sprint Cup Series.” He said it was “100 percent” his choice.

His planned departure is not a surprise. Stewart will be 45 next season, hasn’t won a race in over two years and has been privately working on finding a successor for the No. 14 Chevrolet all year.

The last three years have been trying for Stewart. He struck and killed a sprint car driver during a 2014 event in New York. He also missed the final third of the 2013 season with a broken leg suffered in a sprint car crash.

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