Motorsports Insider: Tough break, but Tony Stewart will be back to being Tony Stewart soon enough

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Series updates Sprint Cup Clinch scenario: Jimmie Johnson can clinch a berth in the Chase this week. He’s the only driver who can. He needs to gain 15 points on the 11th-place driver, which right now is Tony Stewart. But Stewart is out because of injury. Brad Keselowski is in 12th, two points behind. Johnson can also clinch with a win, whether he gains 15 points on 11th place or not. Three-peat possible: Marcos Ambrose has won the past two races at Watkins Glen, holding off Brad Keselowski each time. With another win, Ambrose would become the third driver to win three straight at the Glen. Roadies: Owen Kelly will make his Cup debut in the No. 51 for Phoenix Racing. … AJ Allmendinger is in the No. 47 for JTG Daugherty Racing. Nationwide Once the leader: Regan Smith has 189 points over the past seven races, but that’s the fewest among the top 10 drivers in the standings. He used to be 58 points up. Now he’s tied for second, 14 points down. Road streak: Sam Hornish Jr., tied with Smith for second in the standings, has top-5s in his past four road starts. This week’s race is the first of two road stops in two weeks. Camping World Trucks Crew chief: Joe Shear Jr., who won seven races with Johnny Sauter, has been hired as crew chief for Dakoda Armstrong with Turn One Racing. IndyCar First-timers: Four drivers have picked up their inaugural victories this season: James Hinchliffe, Takuma Sato, Simon Pagenaud and, last week, Charlie Kimball. Tying start: With his next start, Tony Kanaan will tie Jimmy Vassar for most consecutive IndyCar starts, 211. NHRA Clincher: Matt Hagan in Funny Car has clinched a spot in the Countdown to the Championship. He has four wins this year. … Vincent Nobile, Shane Gray, Jason Line and Greg Anderson clinched in Pro Stock. Quotable “That was one of the tracks that I went to when I was younger, running Busch North and stuff back in the day. That was the first road course that I ran a stock car on. I’ve got a lot of experience there, and I can remember going there just to watch my Dad. It’s like New Hampshire and Dover to me — it’s one of those tracks that I was going to before I ever raced.” — Martin Truex Jr., on Watkins Glen 9 Road-course victories for Jeff Gordon, most all-time in Sprint Cup. Four have come at Watkins Glen, site of this week’s race.

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Tony Stewart would not be Tony Stewart if he was not racing every chance he could.

Weekends, weekdays.

Nights, days.

Asphalt, dirt.

Everyone at Stewart-Haas Racing knows that, and for years, everyone has lived with it — the knowledge that the boss could wind up hurting himself in one of these extracurricular races one of these days.

Everyone was right. Monday night, Stewart broke his leg in a wreck in a sprint car race in Iowa. It’s going to cost him at least three NASCAR Sprint Cup races and, let’s be honest with ourselves, ends his chances at making the Chase and going for a fourth championship.

He knew it could happen.

In fact, it has happened three times this summer. Last week, Stewart wrecked in a race in Canada and flipped five times. Three weeks ago, he wrecked in Canandaigua, N.Y.

But he is the boss. He dared himself not to worry about it, and he told everyone else not to worry about it.

“You mortals have got to learn,” Stewart told reporters at Pocono last week after his Sprint Cup practice. “You guys need to watch more sprint car videos and stuff. It was not a big deal. … That was just an average sprint car wreck. When they wreck, they get upside down like that. That was not a big deal.”

Stewart believes he is lucky enough to fulfill his passion. He can afford to race any time, anywhere he wants.

“It’s like hitting a reset button for me,” he told USA Today in April. “It’s a lot of effort, a lot of money and a lot of time to do all this, but it’s worth it. I’m in a fortunate position where I have the resources to do it, but I also don’t have a wife and children. I have a German Shepherd who doesn’t care where we go. I have the flexibility a lot of these other drivers don’t. But even if they had the time, I’m not sure they’d want to go run 70 dirt races on top of a 38-race Cup schedule. It’s just what I enjoy.”

Now, as he recovers from the broken leg, Stewart has to think about how he enjoys what he enjoys. His race organization has to think about how it will treat the boss’ wishes from now on.

“Hey, it’s a tough one,” SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said. “We all know Tony loves to do those races. We know that that’s his golf game, that’s his hunting, his fishing, all the things that the rest of us do. You know, there is a difference in the amount of responsibility we have and obligations to other people, and that’s where I think that’s kind of where it gets sticky.

“I think it makes him better at what he does here, but it obviously leaves the door open for a situation that we’re in now. I think we’re probably lucky that this is the first time we’re dealing with this, to be perfectly honest with you.”

Stewart will find an explanation for the accident. He will say he knows he can avoid such a serious injury in the future. He will tell everyone again to stop worrying about it.

He has to say all of that. He has to get back to racing as much as he can as soon as he can.

Tony Stewart would not be Tony Stewart if he couldn’t.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407 Twitter: @calexmendez

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