NASCAR.com is reporting that Tony Stewart will “step away” from full time Sprint Cup racing after the 2016 season. While this really comes as no surprise to hardly anyone who follows NASCAR, it will be sad to see long time regulars like Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart no longer behind the wheel. It makes me feel old as I grew up watching these two race for decades. I suppose I feel sorry for myself more than them. The end of an era is creeping up on me! Dang it. What happened?? It’s not like I’m really that old, forty-five doesn’t sound as old to me as it did when I was nineteen.
Where was I? Oh yeah, Tony Stewart’s “retirement”. Those reporting the story say he’s stepping away, not retiring. Which I suppose leads one to believe that he may return at some point, possibly on a limited schedule. Kind of like how often I mow the grass now that the boys are old enough to do it for me. Come to think of it, the last time I mowed the grass was the spring of 2013 and even then I seem to recall it was because there was no race that weekend. I suppose it was boredom that drove me to it. I don’t actually remember why, so my memory may be letting go. Now, what was I going to say?..
Tony Stewart! Geez. I’m like that dog named Doug in that Disney movie Up. Back to rambling about Tony SQUIRREL! No, Tony Stewart. I admit I wasn’t much of a Tony Stewart fan for most of his career. Actually, all of it. Right up until the technical geniuses Kayvon and Joe created the super-cool app known as Periscope. One day I’m sitting at my desk and I read an article about Periscope, this hot new social media app that would revolutionize the way people interacted. I was intrigued, so of course I promptly downloaded it and starting trolling the small amount of live feeds that were available. I played with the app for a few weeks when suddenly one day it dinged and informed me that “Tony Stewart’s first Periscope is live!” Tony Stewart? On a live feed with questions pouring in? This I have to see! I bet he blows up on the first troll that asks a question. To my surprise, there was Tony Stewart, acting all normal and stuff. He answered many questions with thoughtfulness and sincerity. Something I certainly did not expect. The more I watched, the more I began to like Tony. I’m a big Jeff Gordon fan, but suddenly I saw Tony in a new light. He was funny, he was downright friendly. One person wrote “You’re fat!” To which Tony coolly replied, “Yeah, and I bet you’re a supermodel.” OK. So the guy is cool. I could go fishing or just sit around and b.s. with this dude. My wife thought I’d lost my mind. Every time Tony had a #periscope feed going, I was right there watching every second. I asked him numerous questions during one feed and he answered all but two. It was like sitting there talking with a friend.
I’ve met Tony once before that and he was a bit rough and grumpy, but polite enough to allow me to snap a selfie with him. I’d heard the stories of other NASCAR fans who said that he yelled, cursed and refused autographs and pictures with them or others around them. Yet there he was on my Periscope feed, making me like him, shoot, downright respect him. After all, he is a three-time NASCAR Champion and can drive the wheels off anything he drives. He was the IRL Champion in 1997 and has won 48 times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, not to mention wins in IRL, sprint cars as well as NASCAR’s Xfinity and Truck series. Tony Stewart is a racer. He loves to race. I had missed that part about him until recently, and I’m sad to have to admit that. I believed the bad press, the bad boy persona that so many people loved to rail against. Shame on me. Tony Stewart has raced his heart out, sacrificed himself for his passion and pushed himself to excel. All to have so-called NASCAR “fans” whine about how mean he is and what a jerk he is. Could it be it was us who were mean-spirited and jerks? Certainly. We pushed ourselves into his face many times demanding he autograph our stuff and take photos with us when he was preparing for the race and didn’t want to be distracted. I bet my kids think I’m a mean jerk when I’m upset with them if they interrupt me while I’m busy with something. That doesn’t mean that I love them any less, I just need to concentrate on what I’m doing.
So, Tony, if you ever happen to read this, thank you. Thank you for your passion. Thank you for your desire to be the best racer you could be. No doubt you have inspired many a young driver to focus on making racing a career. Your accomplishments on the track are many and the sport is better for it. One last thing, that Periscope feed of your flamethrower was damn fun to watch.
Click here to read the NASCAR.com article.