The Full Tony

Tony Stewart leads the pack at Michigan, June 16, 2013. (HHP/Brian Lawdermilk photo for Chevrolet)
Tony Stewart leads the pack at Michigan, June 16, 2013. (HHP/Brian Lawdermilk photo for Chevrolet)

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Clinton, S.C., Sunday, January 5, 2014, 2:34 p.m.

It’s time to write about NASCAR, at least occasionally, again. To be honest … oops.

See? There’s evidence that I’m thinking about NASCAR. Tony Stewart often begins replies to questions with, “To be honest?”

No, Tony, everyone would be delighted if you lied and were completely insincere.

Stewart doesn’t need to proclaim his honesty. He is not, by nature, devious. There’s no need for the honest to declare it, but, paradoxically, the dishonest never allow the issue to arise.

If some NASCAR figures – drivers, owners, crew chiefs, and, in particular, officials – asked, “To be honest?” reporters would be unable to contain their surprise: Ooh, ooh, ooh, yeah, yeah, yeah, honesty … that would be, like, soooo cool. With many of the image-crafted elite, observers have come to expect an edge of insincerity and an unmistakable bent toward subterfuge.

This was me a few years back, when occasionally I leaned against stacks of tires.
This was me a few years back, when occasionally I leaned against stacks of tires.

A loaded gun is less sincere than Tony Stewart.

A three-time Sprint Cup champion with a few demerits on his “permanent record,” Stewart is readying himself for a comeback, having suffered a devastating leg injury last year in a sprint-car crash. It’s not really proper for me to write that it’ll be great having Tony back around, that being because I am not around, but it’ll great having Stewart to watch on TV.

Cameras fly to Stewart like binoculars to a cheerleader’s butt. It’s not that no one knows what he might say. It’s more that we know what he’ll say, and we can’t wait.

Early last year in Fontana, Calif., Joey Logano’s Ford pinched Stewart’s Chevy onto the apron. Watching at home, I knew Stewart would not take it well. Say Logano didn’t do anything Stewart wouldn’t. Say Stewart touched off a wreck blocking at Talladega.

None of that mattered. I’d watched Stewart a long time, wrote a book about him once, and I knew trouble was a-brewing. I’d seen those eyes turn black as coal. I couldn’t wait and wished I had been there. Those are the moments that make me miss being at the track.

As Bud Moore once told me, “By God, your ass has got something to write about now!”

I don’t love Stewart as a person, athlete, driver or model for American youth. I like him as those things. I love to write about him.

He is the most interesting man in NASCAR. He does not always win, but when he does, it is spectacular, and when he does not, it is quite often spectacular, too.

One of my most-used sayings is that fans root for drivers and writers root for stories. I was thinking of Tony Stewart when that occurred to me.

I’m like the little kid in “Shane”: Come back, Tony … come baaaack.

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9 thoughts on “The Full Tony”

  1. Is there anyone who doesn’t like Tony? I can’t imagine it, yet Earnhardt always wins Most Popular Driver. I know plenty of folks who don’t like _him_.

  2. Yes, there are plenty of us who don’t like Tony. Many of us were happy he was out for the rest of the season, it was refreshing without the drama (yes drama, and not in a good way) that the bully and seemingly mentally unstable (at times) Tony always provides. Other story lines took front stage, it was good to see the nice guys get some attention. I shutter to think was stupid drama will unfold (and excuses made) for the SHR stable of hot heads and whiners. Bad behavior from bullies always seem to get a pass especially in Nascar, they think its great until a non favorite does it, Tony however always gets a pass. How borish.

  3. I’m not much of a Stewart fan for many of the same reasons Kelly mentions. Stewart is somewhat like Earnhardt Sr was on the racetrack.” Do as I say not as I do”. But one thing I will say about him is he does recognize up and coming racers. He’s generous with his money . He spends it on his sprint car team and gives talented drivers a chance to show their stuff. I’ve actually heard recently that he is helping out another team on the WoO circuit to get started. He knows how he was helped by others to get to where he is today and doesn’t hesitate to “pay it forward”. Stewart’s a great guy when it comes to helping others and a talented race car driver. Although he has come a long way since the early days he still needs to work on his attitude.

  4. I never was a Stewart fan, but I didn’t active dislike him. Until he became the self appointed track policeman, that is. When he was complaining that someone was going to get hurt, or killed at Daytona. Then in the race he swooped across the entire width of the track to run Kenseth off track, & wreck him at speed, that was it for me. My happiest Stewart moment was him perched ass first on the tire wall after he tried to bully Vickers, over what was a chain reaction incident. As a former open wheel racer, I do wish him well on his recovery.

  5. Ok, I see your points. He’s never been one of my favorites but I enjoy having him around. He’s enthusiastic about all kinds of racing and doesn’t pretend to be above it all. But yes, you’re right about him being “do as I say, not as I do”. He’s often acted that way, and I don’t like that part of him.

    It will be interesting to see how the new SHR does. All of their drivers have a tendency to fly off the handle and it will be very difficult to hold everything together. Four self-involved drivers isn’t a good recipe for teamwork, but the buddy system hasn’t worked out well at Hendrick except for JJ. I think it’s a mistake for SHR to throw all of these hotheads together, but nobody else will take them. I’m neutral on Harvick and Patrick, but I’d like to see Kurt do well again. He seems to be trying hard to rein in his demons, and I think that journalists sometimes bait he and his brother in order to get a story. I guess that I just like people who don’t seem to have choreographed every sentence and gesture.

    I was surprised to hear him mentioned as a bully and compared to Earnhardt Sr. I had a strong dislike for Dale because of how he acted and I didn’t see that in Tony before. I’m going to pay closer attention to his actions after those comments.

  6. Tony & the Bush boys are the only drivers who could go wheel to wheel on bias plys aginst the real drivers of yore. But I may just be a crusty old Blue Hose who bought too much beer @ the C mart.

  7. I went to Furman because I wanted to be close enough to home that I could get there when I wanted but not so close that I’d have to go home every time the hogs got out.
    But … I did go to the basketball game Saturday and will probably be at the one Wednesday night.
    And I’ve been known to buy beer at C-Mart, though not lately.

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