Sponsors Be Damned!

Tony Stewart

(WOMR file photo)

This is exactly the kind of column that NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Tony Stewart says he never reads.

However, maybe Smoke should take some time to read this one.

Stewart made headlines last week at Dover International Speedway when he met with the media, and basically, said he’s going to resume racing sprint cars, and that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks about it.

That certainly is his right as an American. He can do whatever he want, even when it’s not the smartest thing to do.

But returning to sprint cars now seems stupid and selfish, maybe even downright foolish!

This isn’t to say Stewart should never race sprint cars again. That’s an extremely foolish and silly thought. However by Stewart’s own recent admission, he’s not even close to beeing 100 percent recovered from the sprint car accident in which he suffered a double compound fracture of his right leg last August in Iowa.

Why should he tempt fate again? Why not, at least, wait until he’s 100 percent healthy? Or better yet, why not wait until his NASCAR driving career is over?

Stewart is not just a driver now on theNASCAR side, with responsibilities to one team, but he is also co-owner of a Sprint Cup organization with enormous high-stakes commitments to sponsors, who have reasonable expectations of success and the exposure that comes with it, return on investment.

Stewart makes at least most of his living as driver-owner for Stewart-Haas Racing, which competes in the Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR’s highest level of stock-car racing. Nevertheless, he’s always had a passion for driving the lightening fast, light weight, high powered, mudslinging, winged sprint cars.

As co-owner of a top-flight NASCAR organization, he’s not like any other driver. His responsibilities to sponsors are greater and so are his responsibilities to members of his Stewart-Haas Racing #14 Chevrolet team.

For instance, team members get more money, and more exposure, if the group as a whole is successful. They presumably get a whole lot less of both when working for a team that meddles in the middle of the finishing pack week after week, or for one that loses its driver to injury for doing something that was completely unnecessary.

We know Stewart doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, having been very clear about that when he engaged in some verbal jousting with the media at Dover.

He was talking about how he tested a sprint car last week for the first time since his injury, and how he planned to resume racing them soon. But he has no plans to share any further information about exactly when that will be.

Stewart told reporters at Dover:

“I will be able to tell you how it went. Let’s put it that way. You won’t know when it’s coming. When I do go nobody is going to know about it. I’m just going to slide in and do it. I want to enjoy it. I don’t want it to be a cluster. Judging off the fact of how many people showed up just to talk to me about going and testing for a couple of hours I can imagine what the group is going to be like after I run my first race.”

Again, Stewart doesn’t have to tell anyone what his side racing itinerary is. He doesn’t even have to be cordial to the media (and frequently isn’t).

But there obviously are consequences to his actions that affect others. He should think twice about that before engaging in the dangerous activity of sprint car racing again.

He suffered his sprint car accident while moonlighting from his Cup job last August at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskcaloosa, IA. He has been racing sprint cars on the side for years, but this time, the injury that resulted from it caused Stewart to undergo a total of three surgeries while missing the last 15 of the 36 races on last year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule.

For the first time since 2006, and for only the second time in the Chase for the Sprint Cup era that began in 2004, Stewart failed to qualify for the Chase that determines the season’s NASCAR Cup champion over the final 10 races of the year. In fact, it marked the only other time since 2006 (when he finished 11th in points and only 10 drivers made the Chase) that he had failed to finish a season within the top nine in the Cup points standings.

Sponsors who pay millions expect drivers who consistently make the Chase to consistently make the Chase, and contend for the championship. That didn’t happen for Stewart’s team last season, and he’s really struggling again this season.

It would seem entirely logical that Stewart would take the time to, at the very least, get 100% healed before he jumps back into a sprint car. Notwithstanding the fact that Stewart is a very talented race car driver, nevertheless, he has many more responsibilities than most race car drivers.  The two biggest responsibilities he has is to all the crew members of his SHR #14 Chevy team, as well as to all of the sponsors, both primary and associated sponsors, that write the big checks to that team.

Last year Stewart’s severely broken had far and wide ramifications to SHR, as well as all to all of the related sponsors!  Stewart’s failure to make the Chase cost big dollars to the sponsors.  Therefore, it would be logical that Stewart’s sponsors would have some input into his extracurricular activities, in order to protect the return on their investment!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

 

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