Tony Stewart has refused to do farewells at tracks in his final NASCAR Sprint Cup season, and made it clear that he’d rather not get retirement gifts.
But that didn’t stop Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage from doing just that. Gossage made headlines a year ago when he gave Jeff Gordon two Shetland ponies.
This time? Stewart got a life-sized bobble-head to take home with him.
TMS ran a promotion for the AAA Texas 500, giving the first 30,000 fans Stewart bobble-heads. And Stewart received his during driver introductions on Sunday afternoon.
Stewart and TMS have developed a strong relationship over the years. On the track, Stewart has won twice and has been consistent threat in his IndyCar and NASCAR days.
Off the track, Stewart has helped raise more than $1.7 million for the Texas chapter of the Speedway Children’s Charities.
Here is what people around Texas were saying about Stewart’s career this week:
▪ Six-time champ Jimmie Johnson: “I’d put him in the A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti category of driver. A guy who can drive anything and win in anything. There’s only a few names you put in that category. The fact that he’s won an open-wheel championship and NASCAR championship … is just mind-blowing.”
▪ Carl Edwards, who had an epic duel for the 2011 championship with Stewart: “If I could have that battle every year, that would be my dream. We fought down to the last lap of Homestead. It was awesome. It was fun. Having that battle with Tony and knowing that we made those guys win five of the last 10 races to beat us, that was pretty cool.”
▪ Nelson Stewart, Tony’s dad: “The way I look at it, Tony has nothing else to prove. He’s been there, done that, and has the T-shirt to prove it. I made him promise me years ago that, when it came to the point where he wasn’t having fun doing it, he’d quit. He’s not retiring from racing, he’s just retiring from NASCAR. … And I’m just as proud for what he’s done off the track with his charitable endeavors as I am for his career.”
▪ Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage: “It didn’t matter what type of car he was in, he was going to be at the front. Every race.”
▪ Fan Kenneth Peikert, Indiana resident formerly of Flower Mound: “I like his independence and his kind of to-heck-with-everything, beat up a little bit, say what you want to say. I just like his attitude. I’m going to miss him.”
▪ Kyle Busch: “Tony and I, when I first started Cup racing, didn’t necessarily see eye to eye very well and we kind of had a few run-ins here or there. We kind of mellowed that out a little bit and got a good relationship going after that point. When we became teammates [at Joe Gibbs Racing] it was the best thing for us. We got a good chance to sit down talk to each other each and every week at our team meetings to understand one another. … He’s going to be missed, at least on my behalf, being out on the race track, so it’s going to be disappointing to see him go, but he’s going to have fun with the things that he is going to do, I’m sure.”
▪ Joey Logano: “Tony is a fierce competitor. He has a lot of passion. You have to respect someone that has a lot of passion about what they do. That is honestly probably if you were to say one thing that makes Tony Stewart great it is the passion that he brings to the game. ... Tony is one of those drivers that really understands the flow of a race. He knows when to not beat up his car and when to not make other drivers mad and when to just log some laps. He also know when it is game time, and he becomes one of the most fierce competitors out there. It is a cool trait, and I have learned a lot from watching him.”
▪ Kyle Larson: “I’ve gotten Tony’s autograph and stuff when I was really young at like USAC races and stuff like that. I don’t really remember the first time where he met me and actually knew who I was. Maybe it was Eldora when I won the 4-Crown [Nationals], there was the first time I really got to meet Tony and talk to him. … It’s been cool and I’m excited to see what he does with the rest of his racing career.”
▪ Michael McDowell: “Tony is such a great competitor and champion. The thing that sticks out to me more than the competition is just his generosity within the community. He is a man that truly cared about his community and has done amazing things.”