I’ve been thinking about my favorite person Tony Stewart all week-end. This past weekend was the first time a Nascar Cup race has started since 1999 that he hasn’t been in. Anthony (as I like to call him) held the 3rd longest active drivers streak of 521 consecutive starts.
He was holding one of the wild card spots to make it into this years Nascar Chase for the series premier Cup Championship. Being the huge racer he is, I know that not being at this race, had to be weighing heavily on his heart when the green flag fell at Watkins Glen. But I know that started long before Sunday.
You see my favorite guy isn’t a selfish man. He’s known for his generosity as a philanthropist. His caring for animals and kids. His concern for his team and those who work in his businesses. He feels accountable and responsible for the livelihoods of hundreds of people. And not being there to do his part, well that concerns him more than his accomplishments on the track.
Stewart-Haas Racing competition director Greg Zipadelli, who visited Stewart in the hospital on Wednesday and has spoken to him since a Thursday surgery to insert a metal rod into the leg, said the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion was in good spirits but was feeling sorrowful. “He’s a little bit down,” Zipadelli said. “He felt like he has let a lot of people down — the world, his fans — so I know all the support that he has gotten from the fans and the racers here I know has helped him a lot.”
I know I love looking forward to Fast Friday when Cup drivers practice at the track they will be racing. I’m guessing a die hard racer like Anthony looks forward to getting on the track, hanging with his team and friends, away from the tedious sponsor meet and greets, and some what protected from over zealous fans. But knowing my favorite guy is more concerned about those around him, than himself, well that makes me sad. It makes me want to hold his hand, pat him on the shoulder, look in his eyes and say tell him his real fans are more concerned about him getting better and we don’t feel let down at all.
I know that wouldn’t change the responsibility he feels for those who work for him. But I bet each one of them would say the same thing. Stewart-Haas Racing has a lot of prosperity and a bright future built into it because of the things Anthony has done in his few short years of co-ownership. They’re not going anywhere but up. And the way they pulled together this past week, with the performance they showed and put forth in Watkins Glen in his absence, is proof of the success he has built into his racing organization.
I watched Fast Friday as I normally would. But it was less exciting without Anthony being in his #14 Chevy. And while rain caused havoc with the day, it was still my time to be distracted from our woes and the stress of the week here in my house. We got through Saturday with an exciting Nationwide race and cheering for our up and coming favorites. Then came Sunday and our big race day, where I relax a little more and with a little more excitement to see my guy and pull for him before, during and after the race. I look forward to hearing his chit chat on the in-car radio between Spotter Bob Jeffrey and his crew chief Steve Addington. God I missed hearing him on the radio!!
Then, Dr. Jerry Punch explained the injury Anthony sustained last Monday. As he went into the details of what happened, Punch used someone else’s leg to show how the impact typically breaks a driver’s leg. He described the initial results of the bones being pushed through the skin when they broke. He detailed the purpose of the first emergency surgery to clean the wound and temporarily set the damage at the hospital in Iowa. And finally he went through the process of the second surgery back in Charlotte, NC to insert a rod that would hold the bones in place for healing. Through his entire segment my heart moved into my throat and I found myself choking up in sympathy for my favorite guy and what he had gone through. The second surgery was successful and I was happy about that, like many of his family, friends and other fans. But he was still in the hospital under observation at that time. And since I have gone through a broken leg, I know he was in a lot of pain. .
Teams in the garage area were showing their support for their friend Smoke, with this Get Well sticker. Twitter lit up with well wishes, prayers, thoughts, concern and caring. Stewart-Haas announced that Anthony was released Sunday afternoon from the hospital and was at home resting as comfortably as possible.
Yes of course there were the idiots who condemn Anthony for racing so much on dirt tracks in his Winged Sprint car. These aren’t real fans. They’re selfish and self-absorbed couch potatoes who don’t have a clue what it’s like not to have a life of your own.
5-Time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson said, “I know that Tony is feeling bad about being injured and the effect that it has on his Cup team. It’s crazy to think that he won’t be a player in the Chase.”
“It’s troubled me to see some people giving him a hard time about his decision to race other vehicles,” Johnson said. “We always praise him for his contributions to the motor sports world and his ability to drive and race anything. He has done so much for our sport.”
“I personally praise him for all that he does for our sport, including driving sprint cars Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,” Johnson said. “It’s unfortunate that he got hurt. I hate that he’s injured, but I’d be bummed if he didn’t continue to race all during the week. That’s the Smoke we know and love.”
For the race this past Sunday at Watkins Glen, it wasn’t Anthony speaking through the static and engine noise on the radio. It was Max Papis. Massimiliano “Max” Papis, who is known more for his open-wheel racing and he was the perfect choice for Stewart-Haas at Watkins Glen. The Glen is a road course and many teams put open-wheel drivers in their Nascar entries for their road course experience. We call them ringers. And they rarely do well. But Max did the #14 team proud and finished 15th from his 29th starting spot. Max Papis Holds His Own – USA Today. And it was clear that Smoke fans were behind Max. That was great to see.
This weekend the Cup guys go to Michigan and it’s another week to decide who will sit in Anthony’s car. Today, Stewart-Haas announced it will be Austin Dillon To Drive The #14. I couldn’t be more pleased. Austin is an up and comer, and a very mature 23 year old who comes from a family of racers. He’s the grandson of former race car driver and now team owner Richard Childress. And Austin is one of my up and coming favorite drivers.
Austin acquired the Nascar Championship in the Camping World Truck series in 2011. He’s fighting for the Championship in the Nationwide series this year. And he’s made several starts in the Cup cars. He has the talent and he’s got experience. He will represent the #14 Team well. And considering his success at Michigan in the past, I’m guessing he will do very well on the track in that Stewart-Haas #14 Chevy.
Still no one else is Tony Stewart. My guy has a wonderful confidence that many call arrogance. I don’t care what you call it, it’s an attitude I love. And it’s what made him my favorite guy to begin with. I miss seeing him at the track, on the track and adding his perspective. But Smoke Will Rise again and I’ll still be cheering him on!
~ Victoria Lynn