Tony Stewart: ‘Smoke Show’ is always fun at TMS
Tony Stewart’s driving accomplishments are well-documented. He succeeded in stock car racing, open-wheel racing and dirt track racing.
Stewart is now thriving as a team owner for Stewart-Haas Racing. All four of SHR’s drivers are among the final eight drivers for this year’s Cup championship. It begs the question if it’s a championship-or-bust kind of year for SHR.
Stewart answered that and more in a recent interview leading into the AAA Texas 500 this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
If an SHR driver doesn’t win the title, is this season a disappointment?
You’d love to say that. I mean I wish I could say that. Still when it comes down to that championship day, if you’ve just got one of the four in there that’s an accomplishment. You know, but I think the way we’re looking at it this year is I’d love to have all four of them in there. If that happens, I think I’d officially retire from all of NASCAR at the end of the year because I don’t know how’d you’d top that? What the organization has done this year, I mean the records that we have internally set this year has been remarkable. It’s not been one or two, it’s been seven or eight times this year that we’ve broke a record for the organization and they’ve broke the same record over and over a couple times this year.
Obviously Kevin [Harvick] is a guy you expect him to be in that final four, but you know, we see how easy that can change. … As much as we know what we would like to happen, there’s just way too many variables that you can’t control. We just got to do the things that we know how to do as an organization and put these guys in a position to have the best result and just hope that it works out that way.
There haven’t been many struggles for SHR, but the NASCAR-issued pit guns have been for your teams. Should NASCAR go back to the old way?
No, we don’t hope they go back. Trust me, the amount of money that the teams were spending developing their own guns was through the roof and it was stupid. That was a very smart move by NASCAR to knock that part down. You know, they want the racing to be on the race track and that’s what we want too, so their goal with that was the right goal. Now we just got to slow our guys down enough to make sure they get each one of them tight.
Speaking of NASCAR, as a team owner, how do you feel about where NASCAR is heading in general?
I think there’s a lot of positives; it’s just all how it shakes out. There’s just a lot of good that can come out of this; it’s just a matter of what direction are they all heading. It’s kind of challenging, I mean you got the RTA [Race Team Alliance], you got the driver’s counsel, you have a lot of variables in there that all have their own ideas on what to do but ultimately it’s up to NASCAR on what to do to get it to go the right direction. You know, technology plays such a big part in our sport. I don’t know if you can turn back the hands of time, unfortunately, but there’s some of the things I feel like need to be undone if it’s going to get back to where it was when it was at its peak. I’d love to tell you more than that, but I’m scared to. I’m not driving, but I’m still scared of getting fined.
“I think there’s potential. Somebody has to make the right decisions for it to do that. There’s a lot of ideas on the table and there’s a lot of people that have come in the sport in the last five to six years from outside the sport that came in with ideas that to me, made zero sense and was the opposite of what I felt like and a lot of the driver’s felt like needed to happen. I honestly think it’s a matter of NASCAR getting the right people in there. I think they have some really, really good people in there right now that can do it. They just have to have the freedom to make the right decisions and do what’s right. If they can do that and they can give them the power to do that, I think we’ll be in good shape. I think there’s a lot of potential left.
Finally, any interest in returning to NASCAR in a driving capacity?
I’m good, I’m good, trust me. I’ll get my feel today. There’s a couple tracks that every time they come up, Sonoma is one of them and Richmond is one of them, that every time I go to it, I’m like, ‘Man, if one of those guys got sick today, I’d be more than willing to step in with no practice, it’d be fun.’ I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I’ve ran 70 Sprint Car races, or around 70 this year. I think we’re over that actually, but I’m having fun doing what I’m doing now and still get to go on Sundays and race days with these guys and watch them be nervous on race day.