- Last Updated on Sunday, 25 November 2012 21:30
- Published on Tuesday, 10 August 2010 18:27
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Coming into last Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen, the talk was all about Tony Stewart. A notoriously slow starter each season, Stewart can generally be counted on to hit his stride as the season moves into the summer months.
For whatever reason, this season has been a bit different. Heading into last weekend, 21 races into the season “Smoke” had yet to visit victory lane.
He is one of eight winners from last year who have yet to win a race in 2010. Stewart is in pretty good company as several other top name drivers have also failed to garner a win so far this season; Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, and Brian Vickers.
Ah, but the prognosticators were all cranked up with Watkins Glen next up on the schedule. After all, Stewart has won five times since 2002 at the upstate New York road course, 2002, 04, 05, 07, and 09. He finished second in 2006 and 2008. You just don’t get much more dominant than that. So if you had to predict a winner and Stewart was your choice, it wasn’t exactly going way out on a limb. Frankly, how can you bet against Tony at the Glen?
Even though Stewart has yet to win in 2010, he has been consistently in the top ten throughout the season, and sits a very respectable eighth in the points. The man is a living, breathing conglomerate who owns and operates several businesses, including a public relations firm, Eldora Speedway, USAC and World of Outlaws sprint car teams, and midget race teams.
No less a driver than Steve Kinser, “King of the Outlaws”, drives for Stewart on the Outlaws circuit. Last year he became co-owner and the managing partner of Stewart-Haas racing and promptly raised the perpetual mid-pack race team to one of the top half dozen teams on the circuit. So the young man has a lot on his plate, and a lot of families depend on Tony Stewart for their income.
Stewart has always had a great ability to compartmentalize his various interests and has never seemed overly impressed or the least bit overwhelmed by his success and responsibilities. At heart, Tony Stewart is just a kid from Indiana who loves to drive racecars.
The thing is, this NASCAR Sprint Cup Circuit is big stuff. It just doesn’t get any bigger than this in American automobile racing. Millions upon millions of dollars are on the line. Undoubtedly, Stewart’s other business enterprises feed off of his success on the Cup circuit.
It used to drive Joe Gibbs nuts when Stewart drove the No. 20 Home Depot car for JGR, and Stewart would jump on a plane and fly off to Iowa or Oklahoma or some such to race a midget or sprint car during the Sprint Cup season. When Stewart flipped a midget in the Copperworld Classic and banged up his shoulder a few years back, Gibbs was fit to be tied. Tony’s reaction, I’m a racer boss.
Fast forward to last week: Tony badly needs a Cup win. The next race is at the track he has dominated, like no other driver on the circuit, Watkins Glen. Time to clear the decks, focus, concentrate, take your vitamins, get your rest, Sunday August 8, you are the man. Make sense?
Not Tony Stewart; Tony is a racer. Heading into last Sunday, Stewart had already run three races last week; in Sprint Cars of all things. The most dangerous beasts in American racing. Tuesday night he drove in a World of Outlaws race at the Fulton, New York Speedway. Thursday he finished eleventh in a Kasey Kahne charity Sprint Car race at Williams Grove, Pa.
Then came the scary part. Last Friday he drove a Sprint Car at Black Rock Speedway in Dundee, New York. He was leading his heat race when another car lost its steering, collided with Stewart, causing him to flip. “We’re good,” Stewart said after qualifying his Chevrolet in sixth place last Saturday at Watkins Glen.
“They talked to the guy that had the problem and he said the steering broke. When we came blasting around there, he’s coming across the track and we didn’t have anywhere to go. That’s part of racing. It happens. It cost us a car last night.”
You may reach Pete Barber at talkinracing@journalpress.