I have never hidden the fact that I am a Tony Stewart fan and I have been since he was running in USAC on ESPN’s Thursday Night Thunder.
When I started watching racing, I was a Davey Allison fan. When Davey was killed in the helicopter crash, I still watched NASCAR but didn’t have a specific driver I was a fan of until Smoke started Cup racing.
Sunday when he climbs out of the 14 car for the final time in NASCAR, it will be the end of an era.
The numbers make him a first ballot NASCAR Hall of Famer.
- Three NASCAR premier series championships (Only driver to win Winston, Nextel and Sprint Cups)
- 49 Sprint Cup victories
- 309 Sprint Cup top-10s
- 11 Xfinity Series victories
- 2 Camping World Truck Series victories
- 1997 Indy Racing League Championship
- 3 IRL victories
- 1994 USAC Midget Championship
- 1995 USAC Triple Crown Champion
- Two-Time winner of the Chili Bowl
- 2006 IROC Champion
- National Carting Champion
- National Midget Hall of Fame inductee
- USAC Hall of Fame inductee
After 10 years with Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart took a risk and became the co-owner of what was then Haas CNC Racing. A team that in six years had one top-five and 14 top 10 finishes before Stewart was offered a partnership with Gene Haas and formed Stewart-Haas Racing. Since 2009, the first season of SHR, the team has won two championships (2011 Stewart, 2014 Kevin Harvick) and collected 37 victories.
He has won championships as an owner in USAC midgets, sprints and World of Outlaws sprint car series.
That is just some of Stewart’s contributions to the sport.
With the greatness came a lot of controversy. His run-ins with other drivers, the media and NASCAR have been well documented. The darkest time came when he was involved in an accident that killed Kevin Ward Jr. The civil suit brought by the Ward family is still pending.
What he did off the track is what impressed me.
He donated his winnings from the 2001 Indy-Charlotte double to the Victory Junction Gang Camp. Countless sprint car, midget and late model drivers have new HANS devices because of Stewart. When tragedy struck Justin Wilson in the Indy Car race at Pocono, Stewart sent his plane to pick up Wilson’s family and fly them to Pennsylvania. He would pay the tire bill at times for Dave Marcis to be able to race and created the Prelude to the Dream at Eldora which brought in more than $1 million for different charities.
Now my guess is in 2017, Stewart will run his winged sprint car all around the country to get used to driving it again and in 2018 he will run for either the World of Outlaws or All-Star Circuit of Champions title. The next championship on his bucket list.
Thanks Tony for your love of racing and what you have done for the sport. I will have my hat and hoodie on Sunday hoping for win 50.