Tony Stewart Is Not Alone

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Tony Stewart is back, and he should be. He must be. (HHP photo for Chevrolet)

Tony Stewart is back, and he should be. He must be. (HHP photo for Chevrolet)

Clinton, South Carolina, Friday, August 29, 2014, 1:59 p.m.

“When the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name, He writes not that you won or lost, but how you played the game.” – Grantland Rice (1880-1954)

On Thursday, I met an old friend for lunch, and, naturally, the subject of Tony Stewart came up.

“If that had been anyone else – if it had been another driver at that track, or even if it had been Landon Cassill, or Brian Scott – do you think, what, the story would have been over by Wednesday?”

“Well,” I said, “it wasn’t. It was Tony Stewart.”

Stewart (14) races Martin Truex Jr. at Bristol on March 16. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

Stewart (14) races Martin Truex Jr. at Bristol on March 16. (HHP/Alan Marler photo for Chevrolet)

It’s the price of being famous. It’s market value. Stories linger when inquiring minds want to know. When Stewart was a young star, he often railed about the obligations of stardom. “I just want to race,” he said. “I didn’t sign up for all this other stuff.”

“Well, then, why do you do it?” someone asked.

“I’ve got no choice.”

“Sure you do,” replied the questioner. “You can choose not to be famous. You can race sprint cars the rest of your life. If you don’t want the obligations, give up what goes with them.”

Stewart didn’t have a reply. He desperately wanted to think of himself as somehow all alone, but he knew he wasn’t.

More than a decade has passed. The great crisis of Stewart’s life occurred while he was racing without all the obligations.

Today I’ve heard several people express the view that no else has had to go through this. How utterly ridiculous. My guess is that most everyone who reads this has been touched by indescribable sorrow. A kid is in a crash that snuffs out the life of a friend or loved one. A coach orders wind sprints in which one of his players collapses and dies. A dad gives his son a shotgun, or a four-wheeler, or, yes, a race car, and something awful happens.

Tony Stewart practices for a race in which didn't compete: Watkins Glen. Fate intervened. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

Tony Stewart practices for a race in which didn’t compete: Watkins Glen. Fate intervened. (Getty Images for NASCAR)

No one survives a tragedy without contemplating what he or she could have done to avert it. The split second has already elapsed. It cannot be revisited. No good comes from the ruination of more lives. People move on as best they can. It’s a terrible price to pay for becoming a better man, but if there is a reason for the mysterious ways in which we believe God works, that has to be it, and, ultimately, Stewart’s obligation now is to save himself.

Another stage in the grief process is the understanding that no one is unique. People lose their loved ones to war, poverty, drug abuse, violence, insanity, suicide, and the accident of being in the wrong place, and the wrong state of mind, at the wrong time.

What separates Tony Stewart are the obligations of fame and the attention they entail.

People mistakenly believe that success makes people better. It doesn’t. It’s enjoyable, and wonderful, but one’s character is molded by how he or she reacts to the worst things that happen, not the best. It makes some and breaks others.

That is the reason Tony Stewart must race again. It’s not a matter of sensitivity. It’s not one of consideration or obligation. It’s one of survival.

What Stewart signed up for was being a racer. Like all rose gardens, it has its thorns.

About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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4 Responses to Tony Stewart Is Not Alone

  1. bobi says:

    I love racing but the one thing that has always bothered me is not that, as you point out, survival is necessary, but the speed (no pun intended) at which the racing community moves on and seemingly forgets the past. Sometimes it seems to me they work extra hard at erasing it and I find that distressing.

  2. Monte says:

    As the saying goes, thus are they doomed to repeat it.

  3. Al Torney says:

    Very nice article. I watched the press conference today and I was glad Tony did not give a speech written by some pr guy. I honestly felt he spoke from the heart. There can be no doubt that he is deeply affected by this tragedy. I also feel that the only relief he will have will be during the time he is behind the wheel of a race car.

    While I am far from being a Tony Stewart fan I do wish him well.

  4. Robert says:


    How else could they survive if they continued to dwell on the death of a fellow racer or a spectator for that matter? I would think they would have to work extra hard at erasing the memory in order to survive and move on.

    Race drivers, bullfighters, mountain climbers and a few more face death on a regular basis. Their life consists of pushing the envelope, riding on the edge.

    There is no way they could successfully compete if they let certain memories influence their decisons. Hence, in my opinion, the memories have to be put away, submerged, checked.

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