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Stewart Will Be Leaving As He Drove: His Way

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 1 2015
Tony Stewart said Wednesday that he would stop driving Sprint Cup cars at the end of the 2016 season simply because it was time. (RacingToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

Tony Stewart said Wednesday that he would stop driving Sprint Cup cars at the end of the 2016 season simply because it was time. (RacingToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

If there’s one thing I have learned in the more than three decades that I have covered racing, it’s that drivers and crew chiefs always seem to know when it’s time to move on. Such is the case with Tony Stewart.

bugopinionIn Wednesday’s press conference at Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kannapolis headquarters, the 44-year-old Stewart made it quite clear that his choice to step out of the No. 14 Chevrolet at the end of the 2016 season was 100 percent his decision. Anyone who knows the headstrong Stewart would know it wouldn’t have occurred any other way.

It’s been evident ever since Stewart entered NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series in 1999 that no one tells the Indiana native what to do. He listens to what other people have to say about an issue, but he is his own person and ultimately the decision he makes is his. Granted, his attitude has resulted in some rough times for him along the way, especially with the media in the beginning of his NASCAR career. But Stewart’s passion for racing endeared him to fans and others who viewed the sport as he does.

Unfortunately, drivers like Stewart are becoming extinct due to specialization and corporate America’s sanitization of the sport. His personality and talent are throwbacks to the sport’s early days when the public initially became enamored with racing. He can throw a helmet at a

Tony Stewart has been a winner in every kind of car he's driven. (RacinToday/HHP photo by David Tulis)

Tony Stewart has been a winner in every kind of car he’s driven. (RacinToday/HHP photo by David Tulis)

competitor out of anger and then charm a crowd at a championship banquet. His sense of humor can be sarcastic, but there’s never any doubt as to where he stands on an issue. His compassion for others and the deeds he has done to help those experiencing a family crises are known primarily in the racing community. And when it comes to pure racing talent, he’s more reminiscent of A.J. Foyt, his idol.

Most people probably have forgotten that Stewart was a champion long before he made his NASCAR debut. His first championship came in 1980 when he won the 4-cycle rookie junior class championship at the Columbus (Ind.) Fairgrounds. Three years later he became the International Karting Foundation Grand National champion.

At age 16, Stewart was the World Karting Association National Champion. His USAC National Midget championship came in 1994 and the following year he became the first driver ever to win the “Triple Crown” in a single season, claiming the USAC National Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown championships. In 1996 he earned rookie honors in the Indianapolis 500 and the next year secured the IndyCar Series title.

Five years later, in 2002, Stewart won his first of three NASCAR Sprint Cup championships. But before that accomplishment he did the Memorial Day double, competing in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. He’s still the only driver to complete all 1,100 miles, finishing sixth at Indianapolis and third at Charlotte in 2001.

Stewart’s talent, however, isn’t confined to on-track accomplishments as he is an astute businessman and entrepreneur. Earlier this year he purchased the All Star Circuit of

The No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet will feature a driver change in 2017. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

The No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet will feature a driver change in 2017. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Rusty Jarrett )

Champions Sprint Car Series, one of the oldest, traveling Sprint Car organizations in the United States. He owns three dirt tracks, a line of food products, Custom Works remote-control cars, True Speed Communications and a World of Outlaws Sprint Car team. He also resurrected a motorsports trade show in Indianapolis.

Anyone who has ever doubted Stewart’s passion for racing doesn’t know nor understand the outspoken man. Racing is a part of his heart and soul. True, the last 2 ½ years have been tough for him. First, a severely broken leg that has required multiple surgeries and then the following year the death of Kevin Ward Jr., a young Sprint Car driver, which has resulted in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against Stewart.

Still, NASCAR needs more competitors like Stewart; racers who possess a pure, raw passion for the sport. Thank goodness the three-time NASCAR champion is remaining in the sport as a team owner because it sure would be dull without him.   

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 1 2015
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