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‘Inspired’ Stewart Barely Beats HOF Speech Deadline

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 1 2020
Tony Stewart makes his speech at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Jim Fluharty)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – When Tony Stewart said Friday night during his NASCAR Hall of Fame induction speech that he had to quickly write a second one because his first one didn’t pass inspection, the three-time NASCAR Cup champion wasn’t kidding.

“I had photos I was going to pull up — one of Waddell (Wilson), one of Bobby (Labonte) and one of Joe (Gibbs), and actually, one of (NASCAR Vice Chairman) Mike Helton, too,” Stewart explained during his post-induction press conference. “But two of them were movie photos. We found out this morning (Friday) at the last rehearsal that we couldn’t use them without permission from the movie company. I could have used two of the four, but it just didn’t flow because I had all four of those guys tied into it.”

Stewart said it was the first time he was “actually excited” about getting up and making a speech because he couldn’t stop laughing about them and he believed everyone watching would have the same reaction. 

“So I was devastated this morning (Friday),” Stewart said. “Mike Arning (head of Stewart’s communications company) and I literally finished it (induction speech) at 3 o’clock this afternoon and sent it over. So that’s the first time I have actually fully read a speech off of a teleprompter. I normally do bullet points.

“Mike and I decided we were going to need a little inspiration so during lunch we had a couple of adult beverages for encouragement and thought we found some stuff that was fun.”

Stewart said speaking in front of a large group, let alone 1,500 people, had always been difficult for him, “but probably the hardest part was knowing my entire family was there.” 

“Two of the people I forgot to thank (in my speech) were my niece and nephew,” Stewart said. “They were too young during the majority of my career to really know what I was doing and understand kinda who I was outside of just being their uncle. I did realize the day they figured it out because I went from being Uncle Tony to oh, Tony Stewart (when I walked into the room). I said, ‘Don’t you ever call me that, again. I’m always your Uncle Tony.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 1 2020
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