|Anthony Wayne "Tony" Stewart (born May 20, 1971), is NASCAR Sprint Cup driver of the #14 Old Spice/Office Depot Chevrolet for Stewart Haas Racing. Mid season 2008, Stewart announced he was planning on leaving Joe Gibbs Racing at the end of the season to partner with Haas CNC Racing to create Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart began competing in the Cup series in 1999, winning two championships (2002,2005), he spent 9 years driving for Joe Gibbs.
Born in Columbus, Indiana, Stewart grew up racing go karts, highly successfully, winning the world karting championship in 1987. He raced three-quarter midgets for a handful of years before moving up to the USAC series.
Stewart was the USAC rookie of the year in 1991, and was the National Midget series champion in 1994.
In 1995, Stewart became the first driver to win USAC's version of the Triple Crown, earning championships in all three of USAC's major divisions, National Midget, Sprint, and Silver Crown.
When he wasn't racing Indy Cars, he raced stock cars. In 1996, Tony made his NASCAR's Busch Series debut, driving for Harry Rainer. In nine races, however, he had only a best finish of 16th place. He had more success in a one-time ride in the Craftsman Truck Series, where he finished 10th.
Tony was poised to improve his IRL standing in 1997, but struggled with finishing at times. He failed to finish the first three races of a ten race schedule, but recovered to finish second in Phoenix. At that year's Indy 500, Stewart had a good enough car to win his first IRL race, as he led 64 laps, but tailed off near the end of the race and settled for 5th. Tony finally got his first career win at Pikes Peak, where he led all but seven laps of a 200 lap race. He became the leading contender for the series' championship after a bad slump knocked points leader Davey Hamilton out of first place. Despite an average end to his season, finishing 7th, 14th, and 11th, and five DNFs, Stewart did just enough to beat Hamilton for the IRL title.
As he had done the previous year, he raced a handful of Busch Series races. This time, he was racing for Joe Gibbs, the former (and current as of 2006) coach of the Washington Redskins who was having a lot of success with driver Bobby Labonte in Winston Cup. When Stewart was able to finish, he was in the top 10, and had a 3rd place in Charlotte. Stewart so impressed Gibbs that he was signed to drive the majority of the Busch schedule in 1998 to go along with a full-time IRL schedule.
The double duty did not affect his performance in either series. In the IRL, he won twice and finished 3rd in the championship. His season was something of a disappointment, especially as he finished last in the Indy 500 because of an engine failure.
On the Busch side, he finished in the top-five five times in 22 starts. He came extremely close to winning his first Busch Series race in Rockingham, but was beaten on a last lap pass by Matt Kenseth. Stewart finished a solid 2nd place in 2 (of 31) starts, ahead of six drivers with more starts, and had an average finish that was comparable to some of the series' top 10 finishers. Gibbs had enough confidence in Tony that he was moved into Cup for the 1999 season. With that move, Stewart ended his three year career as a full time IRL driver.
Winston/Nextel/Sprint Cup Years
between the years of 1999-2002. he earn 5.8 million dollars Stewart started his Winston Cup career with a bang, as he qualified his No 20 Home Depot Pontiac in second place in his first Cup race, the Daytona 500. He showed courage in one of the Gatorade Twin 125 races, when involved in a great battle with Dale Earnhardt for the win. The Intimidator came out on top, but Stewart had nonetheless impressed quite a few people with his performance. In the 500 itself, Stewart ran near the front until problems with the car relegated him to a midpack finish.
Stewart spent most of his rookie season wowing people, as his car was often in the top 10. He only failed to finish a race once, and even then he finished 9th. He won a pair of pole positions at short tracks, and tied a rookie record with three victories. He finished his first year an unprecedented 4th in points, the highest points finish by a rookie in the modern aera (since 1972), and only bested by James Hylton, who finished 2nd as a first-timer in 1966. Not surprisingly, he ran away with the Winston Cup Rookie of the Year award.
Tony also attempted to race 1,100 miles on Memorial Day, as he attempted to race the Indy 500 during the day and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, N.C., at night. His attempt at "The Double" was mildly successful, as he finished in the top 10 at both races, but he fell 10 miles short of completing all of the miles.
Stewart showed no signs of a sophomore slump in Winston Cup in 2000, as he won six races. However, he "slipped" to sixth place in the standings because of a handful of DNFs, and an increase in the number of competitive drivers, among them his teammate Labonte, who won the Cup championship. Tony also began to get some bad press for his on-track incidents. The best known of these came at Watkins Glen, when he and Jeff Gordon tangled and crashed. Stewart made his displeasure toward Gordon known in an obscenity-laden tirade. The two are heated rivals to this day.
Tony's 2001 got off to a frightening start, as he was involved in a nasty crash in the Daytona 500 where his car violently flipped over several times. He walked away with a broken neck, and didnt think he would be back, but he recovered to win three more races and, as he'd done before, ran near the front most of the season. Statistically, he had a worse season than 2000, but he was the runner-up to Gordon for the Cup championship.
The season was not without controversy though. Gordon pulled a "bump and run" on Stewart to gain a better finishing position in a race in Bristol, and it resulted in Stewart retaliating in a post-race incident by spinning Gordon out on pit road. Stewart was fined and placed on probation by NASCAR. He got into further trouble at Daytona, when he confronted a Winston Cup official after ignoring a black flag. At the same race, he also got into an incident with a reporter, kicking away a tape recorder. This resulted in another fine and longer probation, and earned Stewart a reputation as a hot-tempered individual, which has stuck with Stewart to this day.
He confronted the same official at the race in Talladega after refusing to wear a mandated head-and-neck restraint. Stewart was not allowed to practice until wearing one and only managed to practice after his crew chief intervened. Tony, understandably, earned a reputation for being NASCAR's bad boy.
Tony started 2002 even more inauspiciously than in the previous season, as his Daytona 500 lasted just two laps due to a blown engine. He went on to win twice early in the season but was only seventh at the halfway point of the season. The second half of his season was plagued by an altercation with a photographer after the Brickyard 400. NASCAR put Stewart on probation for the rest of the season. He went on to win the very next week at Watkins Glen, and went on a tear in the final races, finishing consistently in the top five. At the end of the year, Stewart held off a charging Mark Martin to win his first Winston Cup championship.
As defending champion, Stewart managed to have a relatively incident-free 2003. Driving a Chevrolet instead of his previous Pontiac (Gibbs switched among manufacturers), Stewart actually had his worst Cup season, but it was still good enough for seventh in the points. He only won twice that season but led more laps than he had the previous year and was highly competitive in the final races of the year.
In November 2004, Stewart became the owner of one of the most legendary short tracks in America, Eldora Speedway. Located in Rossburg, Ohio, Eldora is a half-mile dirt track known to many as "Auto Racing's Showcase Since 1954." Stewart began racing there in 1991 and continues racing in special events alongside other Nextel Cup drivers and dirt track legends.
He also still makes the occasional cameo on dirt tracks, appearing regularly at an ARCA race on dirt and at many prominent midget car events, USAC's Turkey Night Grand Prix, and the indoor Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.
In 2004, Stewart teamed with Englishman Andy Wallace and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in a Boss Motorsports Chevrolet to take fourth in the 24 Hours of Daytona sports car race. The result does not show the trio's performance, however: They had dominated the race until the last two hours, when the suspension cracked. With 15 minutes left in the race, and with Stewart at the wheel, one of the rear wheels came off, finally ending their run. In addition to placing fourth, the trio placed third in the Daytona Prototype class.
Tony Stewart's car during the 2005 season.
2005 was one of Stewart's most successful years in the Nextel Cup. He won five races, including the Allstate 400 at The Brickyard, a race that Stewart said he would give up his championship to win, and took with it the No. 1 seed headed into NASCAR's Chase for the Nextel Cup 10-race playoff.
On August 16th Stewart was fined $5,000 for hitting the car of Brian Vickers, after the completion of the Busch Series Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International. Stewart was driving a Busch series car owned by Kevin Harvick Incorporated at the time. Stewart also was placed on probation until December 31st. In an apparently unrelated incident, Kyle Busch was fined $10,000 and placed on identical probation for ramming Anthony Lazzaro's car after the Sirius Satellite Radio race, also at Watkins Glen.
Following his second win of the season, Stewart started a tradition of climbing the fence separating the fans from the race track after each victory, a practice adopted from two-time Indy 500 winner Hélio Castroneves. Tony was quoted as saying "I'm too fat for this," and recently purchased $17,000 worth of exercise equipment to remedy the problem. It also led to sponsor Home Depot cashing in on Stewart's success with some promotions reminiscent of Stewart's Eldora Speedway drivers. After his second full climb of the fence in Loudon, N.H., they ran a discount on ladders and fencing at the stores with a campaign named, "Hey Tony, we've got ladders," where anyone who presented the advertisement in national newspapers in their stores earned the discount. After his victory in Indianapolis, Home Depot presented fans who presented the advertisement of his Allstate 400 win with a discount on purchasing bricks. He mentioned in a press release from his sponsor, "I plan to keep winning races and helping to drive down the cost of home improvement for The Home Depot customers."
On November 20, Stewart won his second NASCAR Nextel Cup Championship, joining Jeff Gordon as the only active, full-time drivers to have won multiple championships. He also is one of the youngest drivers to win multiple championships. He was praised by fellow competitors, notably NASCAR veteran Mark Martin who proclaimed Stewart as the greatest NASCAR driver of his era. During the 2005 season, Stewart won a total of $13,578,168, including $6,173,633 for winning the championship, making this the largest season total in NASCAR history.
Stewart's 2006 season got off to a rocky start. Following a rough Bud Shootout on February 12, Stewart expressed concern to the media about the possibility of aggressive driving resulting in the serious injury or death of a driver. It came during a week in which the racing world remembered the fifth anniversary of the death of legend Dale Earnhardt, who died on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Just a few days after Stewart's comments to the media, during the 48th running of the Daytona 500, he was involved in a number of incidents with Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Kenseth, who he chased halfway across the track to run into the grass. "He has no room to complain," Stewart said of his brush with Kenseth. "He started it, and I finished it.
On May 20th during Nascar's All Star Race Stewart and Kenseth wrecked again. Each driver claimed it was the other ones fault with Stewart saying "if (Kenseth) thinks it's my fault and I (caused the wreck) he's screwed up in his head". Following the wreck several media outlets have proclaimed the new Stewart-Kenseth rivalry as must see TV.
Stewart scored his first win of the Season at Martinsville and was fourth in the points through 12 races in 2006, which was higher than general for Stewart's team which is known for starting slow and finishing fast. Stewart, after some midseason inconsistency, missed the 2006 Chase for the Nextel Cup. But during the Chase he remained a force to be reconded with. He won the 2006 Banquet 400 at Kansas Speedway on fuel milage. 4 races later Stewart dominated at Atlanta Motor Speedway leading 146 laps, and at Texas Motor Speedway leading 278 laps. He finished 2006 11th in points.
In 2007 Stewart started off the year very inconsistant with a crash in the Daytona 500 and followed it up with 3 top 10's. Through 9 races though he had 4 finishes of 25th or worse. It took him half the season to collect his first win in the USG Sheetrock 400. But he continued his success, winning the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard and the Centurion Boats at the Glen. So far he has led more laps than any other driver this year and is up to 4th in points.
In addition to his Nextel Cup gig, Stewart, nicknamed "The Columbus Comet" (for his present hometown of Columbus, Ind.), "The Rushville (Ind.) Rocket" and "Smoke", also is the owner of a World of Outlaws sprint car driven by Danny "The Dude" Lasoski. Stewart has won USAC car owner titles in the Silver Crown division in 2002 and 2003 with J.J. Yeley, and in 2004 with Dave Steele. He also collected owner titles in USAC's National Sprint Car Series with J.J. Yeley in 2003 and Jay Drake in 2004. His current driver lineup in USAC consists of Josh Wise in the midget, sprint and Silver Crown cars and Jay Drake in the sprint car and Silver Crown Series.