Tony Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, former IndyCar champion, team and track owner will officially retire as a NASCAR competitor after next season, which will be his 18th in the top stock car racing series in the sport.
It’s been an emotional struggle for Stewart since that fatal freelance sprint car accident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park two summers ago.
Stewart accidently struck and killed another driver who stomped out onto the track during a caution to confront Stewart over earlier contact. Tests indicated Kevin Ward Jr. had marijuana in his system at the time of the tragic mishap.
Tony wasn’t charged criminally, but Ward’s family has filed a civil lawsuit.
The accident was generally badly handled by the main stream media, who did not hold Stewart in a favourable light, even though the official investigation exonerated him from blame.
Once a regular NASCAR front runner, the incident and reaction impacted Stewart deeply, many believing it’s the root cause of his uncompetitive season.
He hasn’t yet finished any races this season in the top 5 for the first time in his career, and he failed to qualify for the Sprint Cup Chase for the championship.
The 44 year old Rushville Indiana native first came to prominence driving high-powered sprint cars on dirt tracks in the mid west United States.
Tony has a deep-seated love for sprint cars and dirt track racing, prompting him to buy Eldora Speedway in Ohio, with the occasional driving assignment in the rapid winged machines. He’s a frequent special guest driver at major sprint car events at Ohsweken Speedway near Brantford Ontario.
He also owns several sprint car teams, including TSR Racing for principle driver, current World of Outlaws Sprint Car points leader Donny Schatz.
After winning an IndyCar title in 1997, Stewart swung his talent over to stock car racing.
His first career NASCAR win was a big one, the 1999 Daytona 500.
His 48 career NASCAR win total ranks 13th on the all-time list.
He currently co-owns his NASCAR Sprint Cup team featuring drivers Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch, and defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick. He will continue to own and operate his team after he stops driving himself.
Often criticized for a somewhat fiery temper and brash disposition, there is a sweet, generous side to “Smoke” you don’t often see, secretly doing a tremendous amount of charity work.
Stewart prefers to maintain a very private personal life as a single man. He’s often stated his race teams are his family.
Tony will still be involved with NASCAR going forward as an owner, but it’ll be strange to watch the # 14 in 2017 with replacement Clint Bowyer behind the wheel.
Tale Pipes: Stewart is the second major NASCAR star to retire. 4-time champ Jeff Gordon, designer of the oval portion of The Canadian Motor Speedway project in Fort Erie, stops driving at the end of the current season… Jeff Atkinson is the new man in charge of the Honda Toronto Indy, Canada’s lone IndyCar event. He takes over with the departure of long-time President Charlie Johnstone… Many Niagara-based DIRT Modified drivers and fans head down the New York State Thruway over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend for the final Super DIRT Week championship at the NY State Fairgrounds “Moody Mile” in Syracuse. After 40 years, SDW will have to relocate due to State development of the Fairgrounds property. Niagara drivers have recorded great success at SDW. Niagara-on –the Lake’s Stewart Friesen is a 3-time Big Block champion, Pete Bicknell has won the 358 Small Block title 5 times, with fellow St.Catharines driver Brad Rouse the 2013 Sportsman champion.