Monday, July 17, 2006

A Few Words About Tony Stewart

Bad-Ass Racers Don't Give And Take: A bump from Ryan Newman on lap 91 of Sunday’s “Lenox Industrial Tools 300” at New Hampshire sent Tony Stewart crashing into the turn-three wall, effectively ending his day. The two-time Nextel Cup champion soldiered on after an extended period behind the wall for repairs, eventually finishing 37th; the latest in a series of ill-timed setbacks for Stewart and his Home Depot team.

Predictably, both Stewart Newman blamed each other for the crash. Stewart said, “The 12 car took us out. I don't even think he tried to make the corner. There are guys who are really good at give and take, and there are guys that aren't. Ryan is really good at taking, but he's not very good at giving.”

Newman turned Stewart’s comments around 180 degrees, saying, “I guess he's not a giver, is he? The bottom line is, we were in a position to take, and rightfully so. We had fresh tires, and he was on old tires, and he didn't give."

In my opinion, both drivers share at least a small degree of the blame for Sunday’s fireworks. Newman was a lap down, and there is NEVER a good reason for wrecking the leader while trying to regain a lap. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, you give the leader his space, and his due.

On the other side of the coin, Stewart was guilty of ignoring the big picture Sunday, getting so caught up in his mano-a-mano duel with Newman that he put a truly dominant racecar in jeopardy. By simply letting Newman go, Stewart could have kept his car intact, maintained the lead, perhaps won the race, and solidified his spot in the Chase For The Championship.

Instead, he’s outside the Top-10 with seven races to go, looking in.

The bottom line – as I see it – is this. “Letting people go” is not what made Tony Stewart a two-time Nextel Cup champion. “Taking it easy” on a guy with a slower car isn’t what earned Newman the nickname “Rocket Man.” Both Newman and Stewart got where they are today by being hard-core, bad-ass, take-no-quarter racers.

Neither one is about to change now.

On a Lighter Note: Watching Stewart climb aboard a NASCAR Whelen Modified Saturday produced a way-too-easy opportunity for "fat guy in a little car" jokes. But, by golly, once he got himself wedged into the cockpit of Curt Chase's backup Cavalier, ole Smoke was absolutely, positively worth the price of admission.

It's not easy to stand out when the entire field is filled with guys running on the ragged edge of control, bump-drafting each other so hard on the straightaways that their molars are in danger of flying out. But even in that heady atmosphere, Stewart had the crowd on its feet from start to finish.

He qualified 21st, and raced his way to ninth place in the first 14 laps, slashing past cars with incredible, three-wide bottom shots that nobody else in the field seemed capable of matching. He got as high as sixth on two different occasions in the 100-lap event, before pitting for tires, fuel and/or chassis tweaks and starting over from the rear. With five laps to go, Stewart was hopelessly mired in sixth place. Sixteen turns later, he dove inside veteran Jerry Marquis for the lead, seemingly poised to steal the win.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Contact between the two sent Stewart's Chevrolet rocketing through the infield at the entrance to turn three, and down an infield access road at approximately 165 mph. Under those circumstances, most drivers would have jumped on the binders, whoa'ed her down as quickly as possible, and thanked their lucky stars to be alive.

Tony Stewart is not "most drivers."

Never lifting off the throttle, Stewart yanked his car to the right, hurtled back across the infield, got airborne after crossing another service road, then dirt-tracked his way back onto the racing surface in turn three, losing only seven spots in the process.

It was high-testosterone racing at its absolute best; enough to have the thoroughly jaded MRN Radio broadcast team jumping up and down with excitement. There aren't 10 men on the planet who could have climbed into an unfamiliar car for the first time, then methodically taken 41 of the finest, full-time modified drivers in the land to school. Second-generation driver John Blewett, III carried home the winner's trophy, but make no mistake about it.

Tony Stewart was the show.

And Finally, What Really Matters: After meeting last year's stated goal of making a $1 million donation to Victory Junction Gang Camp, Stewart pledged another million dollars to the camp Friday, once again affirming his committment to children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. Stewart made the announcement at New Hampshire International Speedway, alongside Kyle and Pattie Petty, founders of VJGC.

Reporters are usually a fairly callous bunch, but Stewart had much of the room in tears as he and the Pettys spoke of their devotion to the camp and their memories of Adam Petty, who lost his life at NHIS in May of 2000.

NASCAR.com writer (and Sirius Speedway regular) Dave Rodman tells the story much better than we ever could. We will simply direct you to the link, and remind you that the rough, tough, sometimes abrasive SOB you see on television is not the REAL Tony Stewart.

4 comments:

  1. You know it's funny. When I first got Radio Vermont I used to think the same thing... I'd judge racers by what I had seen on TV. It was you and Ken you changed my way of thinking. My very first day, both you and Ken were out back and I made a comment about one of the racers and their sponsor and the two of you turned horror-faced to me. That afternoon Ken took me to lunch and gave me the first of many very important lessons. He said, "Why do you think that way of Jeff Gordon? Do you know him? Because I do... And What have you heard about Tony Stewart? Amy, I can guarentee you that he has one of the biggest hearts of all the racers I know. He is genuine - and what you've seen on TV is raw emotion. That's what being a true racer is all about..."
    And I believe him. Now it's me who defends him or whoever when someone is running a racer down. (Well usually) Even if I don't know them - (And trust me - I don't) there is a lesson to be learned there...

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  2. it's always nice to see the "softer" side of people normally perceived as bullies...i'm a huge petty fan (my bd is actually 4-3!) and i was devastated when we lost adam...i had the same reaction to stevie ray vaughan's untimely death in a helicopter crash (i'm from dallas-his hometown)...just total and utter disbelief...and i had just gotten him (adam) to sign a rookie coin that i had just gotten plus the qualifying day ticket that had adam and kyle on the front...i was blessed to be able to see his one and only cup race and was so upset that kyle hadn't quailified for it...it's hard to believe that 6 years have already past...bless you tony, bless you adam, bless you kyle, pattie, gummy, austin, richard and lynda...

    p.s.-anyway the show could start an hour earlier? can't pick up the signal at work, so can only listen for a few minutes at lunch...

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  3. Sorry Linda, we like 3-6 ET. Guess you'll have to quit your job.

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  4. Anonymous2:38 PM

    You may be able to see the softer side of Stewart, and that is great. What he does off the track is fantastic for the Victory Jct Gang, etc. And on the track he is an absolutely amazing driver capable of performing feats that almost no one else can pull off. However, after watching Pocono this weekend, I do not see how anyone can defend this road-rage idiot. According to Stewart, everyone else on the track does not belong there and simply needs to slide over, slow down, and let him go on to victory lane. And if you don't, you do not know what you are doing. I don't know any other sport where an athlete expects the opponent to simply stop competing in order to let them win. In fact, most other athletes thrive on the competition and look forward to a pitched battle. Not Stewart, he wants a golden-paved road to the championship and he whines and cries foul whenever there my be a bend in the road or, heaven forbid, a small pothole. Carl Edwards is also a very talented racer who is not going to make the chase for many reasons, however Stewart's escapade being the most obvious reason. I think it is tragically sad that not only is Stewart allowed to promote his behavior, but that he thinks he is entitled to that behavior and he obviously sees himself as some sort of NASCAR Prophet bringing the truth down from the mountain. I have news for you, Mr. Stewart, you are nothing but a schoolyard bully, the popular kid in high school, who enjoys beating up those less fortunate than you. It's easy to step on those smaller than you. The real measure of a champion is how they advance the sport, encourage others, and also how they handle adversity. Mr. Stewart has won the Nextel Cup, but he is certainly not a champion. He is a sad human being that truly makes me enjoy NASCAR less and less each week. -Matt, WI

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