He’s won three championships and 49 races in 18 years of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. He’s also earned countless victories and titles on short tracks across America in nearly every form of racing imaginable. But few things have touched Tony Stewart like the honor he’s to receive this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, when the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver makes his 28th and final appearance on the 1.5-mile oval.
Stewart will have his own bobblehead doll.
“I don’t know that I ever aspired to or ever thought my career would be complete until I got a bobblehead,” Stewart said with an ever-so-slight tinge of sarcasm. “But now I’ve got one, so now my life is complete.”
The bobblehead is the brainchild of track president Eddie Gossage as part of “Tony Stewart’s Last Ride at Texas Motor Speedway.” The facility is going to hand out the Stewart bobbleheads to the first 30,000 fans who come to Sunday’s AAA Texas 500.
Stewart reviewed the bobblehead and offered his artistic critique.
“Unfortunately, it does look like me – that’s the scary part,” said Stewart, who also accused Gossage of cutting costs by mounting his oversized head on a skinnier model’s body. “I think people are going to put them in the corners of their house to keep the insects and mice away. It will scare everybody and probably ward off intruders.”
Stewart and the track have a long relationship dating back to his IndyCar Series days. Stewart last visited Texas Motor Speedway in late September for his annual “Smoke Show” fantasy camp with fans benefitting Speedway Children’s Charities. There were 21 campers from eight states and Canada. Stewart has raised more than $1.5 million since the event’s inception in 2008 and plans to continue doing it on an annual basis even though he will no longer be a full-time Sprint Cup driver beginning in 2017.
Still, Texas won’t be all fun and games for Stewart, who arrives at the ultra-fast track after finishing 26th at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last weekend. He hopes to climb from 14th to 13th place in the standings before the season ends in three weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Stewart would also like to earn his 50th career Sprint Cup victory in one of the final three races before his future Hall of Fame career comes to a close.
Texas could be the place. He owns two poles, two wins, eight top-three finishes, 12 top-fives, 23 top-10s and has led a total of 183 laps in his 35 career Sprint Cup starts at Texas. His average start is 13.0, his average finish is 12.6 and he has a lap-completion rate of 96.7 percent.
Does Stewart dream of winning the 50th at Texas?
“I’ll take it anywhere,” he said with a laugh.
It would cap a successful final year in Sprint Cup racing during which he missed the first eight races recovering from a January off-track accident. He hasn’t missed a beat since his return, posting five top-fives and eight top-10s in 25 races. Stewart also returned to victory lane in June on the road course at Sonoma (Calif.) International Raceway.
The remainder of the 2017 season carries the promise of more possible rewards for Stewart than his driving career alone. His SHR team has drivers Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch in the Round of 8 of the Chase for the Championship playoffs with the hopes either could give the team its third championship since its inception in 2009. The team co-owned by Stewart and Gene Haas has earned 36 victories in 816 races.
Sunday will mark the final time Texas will see Stewart race in the Sprint Cup Series, if fans arrive early they’ll take home a Stewart bobblehead and if they stay to the end they’ll, hopefully, get to see one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers take home a trophy.
|TONY STEWART, Driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What is your best Eddie Gossage story?
“That cannot be told in public. He’s a great friend. I’ve owned Eldora Speedway (in Rossburg, Ohio) for 10 or 11 years, now, and he’s been the greatest mentor from that side. He is so well-rounded, has vision and looks outside the box. He makes you think about things you wouldn’t normally think about. That’s been a big key to our success with our racetrack.”
Your thoughts about Texas Motor Speedway?
“The track is a great track. Eddie is smart enough to know that repaving this track is the worst thing he could do to it right now. This track has enough age on it that, when it is hot and slick, everybody is racing all over the track and that makes good racing. They treat everybody well here. I think this is the second- or third-biggest purse of the year for us and the crowd here is awesome. It’s a great, great market for our sport.”
Texas is a track where you’ve been consistently good. What makes you so comfortable there?
“You have to be comfortable, or you’re not going to go fast. The more comfortable I am, the faster we go. This track – the grooves have moved around, especially in the last couple of years. We’ve seen the track get wider and it’s made it to where you can move around on the racetrack and where you can run the top side or the bottom side. It’s nice from a driver’s perspective to be able to have that flexibility behind the steering wheel, knowing that if your car’s not driving exactly the way you want it to, you can move around the racetrack and find a spot the car likes better.”
You’ve logged a lot of laps at Texas.
How has the track developed since those early years?
“Anytime you put more seasons on a racetrack, the better it gets because it seems like the pavement wears out on the bottom and it makes it to where you can run the top and be fast, and you can run the bottom and be fast. It makes the whole racetrack, speed-wise, about the same, versus when they pave a racetrack and the only groove is right on the bottom. The fastest way is the shortest way because it all has the same amount of grip, so the shorter distance is faster. Every year we come here, I think the racing just gets better and better, as far as being able to move around on the racetrack and guys not having to just follow each other and get stuck behind each other. You can actually pass. You can race. You can get away from guys if your car’s fast.”
How have you been able to adapt to the Texas layout?
“I’ve found that you can pass anywhere, really. If you get a guy who misses the bottom of the corner and he bobbles, you can get around him. But even if someone doesn’t make a mistake and you’ve got a little better car than they do, the groove has moved up enough over the years to where the track’s a little wider, so you have more room to get a run on a guy. But, as the tires wear out and grip goes away, drivers will make mistakes and a car’s handling will become more important. And, when a guy makes a mistake, you need to be there to capitalize on it. You can really pass anywhere as long as the right opportunity comes up.”
|Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Team Report
Round 34 of 36 – AAA Texas 500 – Texas
|Car No. 14: Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing
Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Busch Beer Chevrolet SS
Danica Patrick, No. 10 TaxACT Chevrolet SS
Kurt Busch, No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet SS
At Track PR Contact: Drew Brown with True Speed Communication (704-498-7596 or Drew.Brown@TrueSpeedCommunication.com)
|Primary Team Members:
Driver: Tony Stewart
Residence: Columbus, Indiana
Crew Chief: Mike Bugarewicz
Hometown: Lehighton, Pennsylvania
Car Chief: Jerry Cook
Hometown: Toledo, Ohio
Engine Specialist: David McClure
Hometown: Sacramento, California
Engine Builder: Hendrick Motorsports
Headquarters: Concord, North Carolina
Spotter: Bob Jeffrey
Hometown: Bristol, Tennessee
|Over-The-Wall Crew Members:
Front Tire Changer: Ira Jo Hussey
Hometown: Manchester, New Hampshire
Front Tire Carrier: Brett Morrell
Hometown: Windham, Maine
Rear Tire Changer: Chris McMullen
Hometown: Canton, Michigan
Rear Tire Carrier: Josh Sobecki
Hometown: New Kensington, Pennsylvania
Gas Man: James “Ace” Keener
Hometown: Fortuna, California
Jackman: Getty Cavitt
Hometown: Owensboro, Kentucky
Windshield: Justin Peiffer
Hometown: Lebanon, Pennsylvania
|Road Crew Members:
Truck Drivers: William “Stump” Lewis and Rob Fink
Hometown: Linkwood, Maryland and Baltimore, Maryland, respectively.
Engineers: Lee Deese and Chris Chidgey.
Hometown: Rockingham, North Carolina and Gainesville, Florida, respectively.
Mechanic: Tony Silvestri
Hometown: Sylvania, Ohio
Tire Specialist: Russell Simpson
Hometown: Medford, New York
Shock Specialist: Dave Hansen
Hometown: York, Maine
Pit Support/Fuel Runner: Daniel Coffey
Hometown: Granite Falls, North Carolina
|The only previous appearance for this chassis came in July 2016, when Stewart started sixth and finished fifth at Pocono (Pa.) International Raceway. Rain ended the race on lap 132 of the scheduled 160 laps.
|• Sunday’s race marks Stewart’s 616th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start and his 28th Sprint Cup start at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.Stewart has career totals of 49 wins, 15 poles, 187 top-five finishes, 308 top-10s and 12,815 laps led in 614 Sprint Cup races.
His most recent Sprint Cup win came June 26 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
His last Sprint Cup pole came April 5, 2014 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
Stewart missed the final 15 races of the 2013 season, three races in 2014 and the first eight races in 2016.
• Stewart has two wins, six top-five finishes and 13 top-10s and has led a total of 801 laps in his 27 career Sprint Cup starts at Texas. His average Texas start is 18.8, his average finish is 14.4, and he has a lap-completion rate of 95.7 percent.
• Brian Vickers substituted for Stewart at Texas in April as Stewart recovered from an offseason injury. An accident allowed Vickers to complete only 290 of the race’s 334 laps. If people need a bad drug lawsuit attorney from law firms, they can check them out from here!
• Stewart has scored five top-five finishes and eight top-10s in 25 races he’s entered in 2016.
• Stewart won his 11th career Sprint Cup pole, but first at Texas, when he won the pole for the 2010 Samsung Mobile 500. It was Stewart’s first pole in 155 Sprint Cup races dating back to Oct. 21, 2005, when he qualified on the pole at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
• Stewart dominated in his visit to Texas in November 2011, as he led seven times for a race-high 173 laps to take his second Sprint Cup win at Texas. His average speed of 152.705 mph made for a then record fastest Sprint Cup race in Texas Motor Speedway history and it moved Stewart to within three points of leader Carl Edwards in the championship with just two races remaining. Stewart went on to win the championship, his third in Sprint Cup.
• Stewart’s first win at Texas was similar to his second victory in the Lone Star State. He dominated the November 2006 race, leading eight times for a race-high 278 laps.
• Prior to Stewart’s first Sprint Cup win at Texas, he scored a victory in the International Race of Champions (IROC). In April 2006, Stewart won round two of IROC XXX at Texas. He followed that win with a victory on the road course at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. And with a third-place finish in the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Stewart secured his first IROC championship – the last in the 30-year history of IROC.
• Stewart has made three IndyCar Series starts at Texas. He started on the pole twice (June 1997 and 1998) and second once (September 1998). While Stewart never finished an IndyCar Series race at Texas (he suffered engine failures in June 1997 and September 1998 and mechanical troubles in June 1998), he still led 208 of a possible 624 laps (33.4 percent). Ironically, 208 was the exact number of laps in each of Stewart’s three IndyCar races at Texas.
• Lone Star Start – In November 1995, just a month removed from earning his USAC “Triple Crown” championship, Stewart drove an Indy car for A.J. Foyt at Texas World Speedway in College Station. It was to film a TV commercial, and later that night after production had wrapped, Foyt offered Stewart a ride with his team in the IndyCar Series for 1996. The IndyCar Series was still in its infancy, so the 1996 season Foyt offered Stewart amounted to Disney World in January, Phoenix in March and Indianapolis in May. But Foyt wasn’t the only car owner who was interested in Stewart. Harry Ranier, a NASCAR team owner who had fielded race cars since 1967 and recorded 24 wins, was looking to get back into ownership after selling his team to Robert Yates at the conclusion of the 1988 season. Ranier’s second attempt at NASCAR team ownership came in November 1995 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the NASCAR Xfinity Series season finale. Stewart was his driver. The start-up team didn’t make the race, but Stewart had a handshake agreement with Ranier to run a handful of Xfinity Series races in 1996. Foyt didn’t like the idea of sharing his driver with another owner, and told Stewart as much. But Stewart wasn’t comfortable in backing out of his deal with Ranier, so he turned down Foyt’s offer. The nine Xfinity Series races he ran for Ranier turned heads in the stock car world, one of which belonged to Joe Gibbs. The three-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the NFL’s Washington Redskins hired Stewart to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 1997. Twenty-seven Xfinity Series races and two years later, Stewart was in Sprint Cup.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!