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Memo: He Sure Looked Like Tony Stewart

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, July 6 2009
Taylor Earnhardt takes her father's car for a drive through the English countryside.

Taylor Earnhardt takes her father's car for a drive through the English countryside.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

In the Monday Morning Memo today we find:

* I don’t know whom that was that crawled out of the No. 14 Stewart Haas Chevrolet following Saturday night’s Coke Zero, but somebody needed to ask him for an ID and then what he has done with Tony Stewart.

Because the Tony Stewart that I know does not apologize for winning or much else that happens on a race track.

The Tony Stewart I know would put a front bumper to Mother Teresa to get a victory and then shove Gandhi down the stairs on his way up the podium to grab the trophy.

The Tony Stewart I know made a statement when he had the No. 14 placed on the side of the car he owns and drives.

There are, of course, a couple things wrong with all of the above statements.

First, the word “know” should be replaced by “knew”, past tense. Tony Stewart the owner/driver is not the Tony Stewart the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. He will tell you that himself and probably will not shove you out of his path as he’s doing it. Tony Stewart in ’09 is more of a thinker on the track and in the shops and offices. Call him Tony Stewart 2.0.

The second thing wrong with the above statements is that precious few people know, or knew, Tony Stewart.

One time several years back, we sat in his motorhome in the infield at Dover. We were talking racing – dirt racing, specifically – and watching the Busch Series race on television.

Good Tony was oozing out all over the motorhome floor when an innocent remark of mine altered the mood. A bit taken aback, I started to say, “I just thought…”

Stewart calmly said that I shouldn’t think or suppose when it came to him because nobody knows him and just when you start to think you do know him, he changes.

In casual observation since, I would judge that to be completely accurate.

What was all that stuff Saturday night about how he did not want to win the way he did, by getting involved in an incident with Kyle Busch on the Daytona front stretch on the last lap?

What was with the subdued celebration? How would he explain all that to A.J. Foyt when next they meet?

Who knows? Nobody knows.

When race fans ask me what drivers are really like, the thought of Stewart and his motorhome and Dover flash through my skull.

And I almost always say, “I don’t know any drivers.”

Memo to self: Ask Stewart if he found the keys to my Dover rental car between the cushions of his motor home sofa.

 

* The weekend after the Indianapolis 500 may never be the same again for old-school open-wheel race fans as it was announced late last week that Milwaukee Mile has closed its offices.

Barring a miracle, the track will be shut down and to paraphrase and update a line from the movie “Casablanca”, these economic times have outlawed miracles.

The Mile, located on the grounds of the Wisconsin state fair, is the oldest operating race track in the country. It began hosting racing in 1903 – eight years before Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

For decades, it served as the next stop after the Indy 500. Following the 500, teams and drivers would pack up their rigs at IMS and head north to Milwaukee to compete at The Mile the following weekend.

The Mile featured some very memorable races, like the time A.J. Foyt showed up for the Indy-car race with a roadster. It was 1965 and he unloaded a big, front-engine dirt car he had and looked quite odd lining up against the sleek rear-engine Lotus-type cars, whose era was then under way. Didn’t matter. Foyt led 16 laps and finished second.

Lately, it has been hosting NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Trucks series in addition to the IndyCar series.

But racing of any kind has been put in doubt at the wonderful old track. It is out of money. In fact, it owes money to NASCAR and the IRL and the current operators of the track closed its offices.

Memo to self: Wear a black arm band on the weekend after the 2010 Indy 500.

 

* Late last year, the letter came from the Kansas City Royals offices. The Royals would love to welcome us back as season-ticket holders, something we had been for eight years.

The Royals loved us and appreciated our business and support and could not wait to see us again during the 2009 season.

And they showed that appreciation by informing us that ticket prices would be kicked up significantly. Again. Cost of our parking pass? Kicked up. Again.

No matter that the Royals had spent the 2008 season bumbling their way to an 85-plus-loss season. Again. Heck, at least they didn’t lose 100, something did again and again in previous years.

And no matter that the tax payers had just refurbished their stadium for them at high nine figures. More money, please.

So, where’s the love for the ticket-buying public?

In racing.

Say what you want about the product. But the way which NASCAR and IndyCar tracks have offered deals to fans is quite admirable and quite unheard of in other sports.

Memo to self: Let’s see, if I give blood once a day down at the local blood bank at $200 a pop, I should be able to go to a game at Yankee Stadium in, what, 2015?

 

* The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet took to the track again over the weekend and with Earnhardt behind the wheel.

It ran at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in West Sussex, England, and it did so with Taylor Earnhardt driving.

Goodwood is the annual gathering of racers and cars which is more about getting close to the sport’s biggest names and iconic machines than about racing. The event has always been decidedly European with retired Formula One and Le Mans drivers and cars being the big stars. Strolling the grounds and driving the famed Goodwood Estate are such racing royalty as Sir Jackie Stewart, Sterling Moss, Derek Bell, Jackie Ickx.

This year, NASCAR got an invite. NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter was there on NASCAR’s behalf. Love it, he said.

“The Goodwood Experience was unbelievable,” Hunter said. “Lord and Lady March (of the Goodwood Estate) are two of the most genuine people I’ve ever met. It’s an event for everyone who loves cars and race cars, any kind of race car. Probably one of the most interesting and entertaining trips I’ve ever experienced.”

Among those responding were Rick Hendrick, who sent over a Jeff Gordon car from his team’s museum, and Childress, who sent over one of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s Goodwrench Sprint Cup cars.

Taylor Earnhardt, who is Dale and Teresa’s daughter, made a couple runs in the No. 3 Monte Carlo.

Quite cool for NASCAR and quite a sight.

Memo to self: Check RacinToday petty cash to see if a road trip to Goodwood in 2010 is possible.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Monday, July 6 2009
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Mike H says:

    Maybe a little time with Foyt away from the crowd would have shown more of the same things? Really,really sorry to hear of the Mil. Mile possible closing, I also remember the trek No. that week, good memories. Where did Childress get an old #3 “sprint Cup” car? Guess my memory really is going.

    • Jim Pedley says:

      Mike: We use “Sprint Cup” in reference to all Cup generations when we can. It helps us avoid saying repetitive, condescending things like, “which at the time was known as the Winston Cup series”. Ditto for Nationwide and Camping World Trucks. We figure our readers, who are, of course, the best and most knowledgeable around or they would not be here, will understand.
      Childress has a should-not-miss museum at his shop complex in Welcome. He has a bunch of Earnhardt cars in it. All of the big-story cars. Again, this shop should not be missed by NASCAR fans who are in, or who travel, to the area. The place could be re-named Goosebump City.
      JP