gETTing REady fOR ThE ChasE
Tony stewart sTEWaRT-haas RaCing nasCaR dRiVER
“last year was proof that, no
matter how bad things are heading
into the Chase, it can still be done”
y first rival in racing was a kid named
Eric Johnson, who I raced in go-karts
when I was 8 years old. He and his father
gave me a chance to drive Eric’s kart
before my father bought me one. Eric and
his father actually were a big help in
getting me started in racing.
Once we started, Eric was kind of the
guy to beat, so that pretty much started
the rivalry. Then later, when we got going,
we kind of got to the same position and
that created a rivalry between us.
Eric and I are still good friends,
actually. He’s changed from racing
competitively to fishing competitively.
There were plenty of other guys I was
rivals with coming up through the ranks.
Kenny Irwin and I had a pretty good
rivalry in USAC, and Arie Luyendyk and
I did in the IRL before I switched to the
NASCAR Sprint Cup side.
In NASCAR, I haven’t had any big
rivalries in quite some time, actually. Jeff
Gordon and I had one for a while, but I
really don’t think I have any right now. I’m
pretty strict about how I do things and like
things to be done when it comes to how I
race people and how people race me.
Occasionally a new guy will come in
and think they’re going to change the
way things are done but, really, I feel like I
get along with everybody for the most
part. I don’t ask any more out of people
than the way I would race them.
Why aren’t there more rivalries now?
Racers in this era are different then they
were 15-20 years ago. Guys who raced
20 years ago, they worked on their own
cars, they rode in the haulers, they had to
drive bad cars before they got
opportunities to drive nice cars. And
that’s how they had to make a living.
Nowadays, there’s too many parents
that buy their kids the best of everything
and that’s how they get opportunities.
They have to make the best out of it —
they still have to drive — but I think the
reason you don’t see as many rivalries
“Smoke” took a
second career World
of Outlaws A-Feature
win July 21 when he
held off Tony Stewart
Donny Schatz in
the Don Martin
Memorial Silver Cup
(BELOW). As we
closed for press, TSR
drivers Schatz and
Steve Kinser were
second and fourth
in WoO points.
Tony Stewart had a bit of a rivalry going on with Arie Luyendyk in the Indy Racing League. In the 1997 Indianapolis 500 (PICTURED), Stewart led a race high 64 laps, but it would be Luyendyk – who led for 61 – taking the win.
now is you don’t see the same passion
that you used to see in racers.
Some of it is you have to guard your
emotions after the race and take care of
the corporate side of it. Guys who have to
go from being in somebody’s face after the
race to dealing with it the next day — the
passion’s different than what it used to be.
Guys still want to win just as bad as
ever, but I think the degree of it somehow
has changed from what it used to be.
But there’s still some good rivalries out
there. Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell
have what’s probably the longest-running
rivalry out there. When those guys are on
the racetrack together, you can see it
when those two are around each other.
Everything just picks up a notch.
Now, back to the business at hand. I’m
ready to make another NASCAR Sprint Cup
title run in my No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1
Chevrolet Impala SS. Last year was proof
that, no matter how bad things are heading
into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, it can still
be done. I have a little more confidence
because of winning the championship last
year after a bad regular season.
It’s not a guarantee that it’s going to be
better this year but, at the same time, it’s
not a guarantee that it’s going to be terrible
when it starts, either. I feel like we have a
little bit of room to improve before the
Chase starts, some things we need to find,
but I’m feeling pretty good going into it.
I’ve been doing a lot of sprint car
racing this year, too, and I think it hasn’t
hurt anything as far as the NASCAR
program goes. There’s a lot of late nights
and early mornings, but I think the true
answer comes from the guys I work with
— Greg Zipadelli and Steve Addington
— and how they see me on race day and
what they see on the racetrack.
I feel like racing the sprint car on dirt has
helped me. The schedule’s definitely more
hectic, but I feel better in the Sprint Cup car.
I really feel like I’m on top of my game
again, and that’s a really good feeling
when you climb in the car every Sunday.
follow Tony and Ryan newman
on Twitter at @StewartHaasRcng