The crinkling sound you hear is writers throwing what was going to be the final chapter of Tony Stewart’s NASCAR driving career. The “Tony Stewart is washed up” narrative has just gone out the window. The three-time Cup champion who has won at just about everything he’s tried has added another notch to his achievement belt. Demonstrating the process that has made him one of the most productive road course racers the series has ever seen, that 84-race winless streak goes out the window at Sonoma Raceway.
Stewart’s dad Nelson said it, and it’s true: regardless of how the rest of this year plays out as Smoke rides into the sunset, it was a good year. Those sad tales that accompanied the end of the storied careers of Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip won’t apply to the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing. In spite of missing much of the early season due to a back injury, Tony Stewart is bona fide, with prospects for the Chase.
He’s got the win he needs, now all Tony Stewart has to do is hit the top 30 in points. Currently 32nd, the Hoosier is just six points from achieving just that. Do you really think he can’t make it? Me neither.
The best part of it all is, Tony Stewart is Tony Stewart again. His snarky sense of humor is back, he’s banging doors once again and the character who’s added so much color to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has returned to form.
To know Tony Stewart is to know he’s a patchwork of conflicting characteristics. He’s irreverant, yet respectful, he appears to not care, but he cares a great deal. Smoke might just flatten you, but off you a hand back up. He’ll show respect for authority and at the same time will make no bones that he may just go and rack up fines for speaking his mind.
Stewart says he was recently reminded by NASCAR chief Brian France that the sport is bigger than him. It’s true, and yet, there are those who occupy that unique place in the pantheon of the series for whom is no replacement. There won’t be another Tony Stewart after Tony Stewart is gone. Personally, I will drink up all we get of one of the top talents to ever climb into a race car while he’s still kicking butt and taking down names.