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In Defense of Tony Stewart, One Year Later



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Post Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:09 pm

In Defense of Tony Stewart, One Year Later

Written by Aaron Rosser

Well, we've made it a year.

It was a year ago tonight, of course, that Tony Stewart's world - and that of his race fans - got turned upside-down quite literally. Everyone knows the basic story behind his accident in Oskalooska, Iowa, last August 5 and his long road to recovery and racing. There's no sense re-hashing it.

What does deserve a bit of re-hashing is the man's impact on the sport. Not just NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, mind you, but the total scope of North American auto racing.

Stewart's injury set off a firestorm directed both at him and sprint car racing, which happened to be the type of discipline he was participating in when that perfect storm of variables came together and nearly took his right leg with them. It was quite unfair on both fronts. Yes, sprint car racing was in a dark place given the spate of tragic accidents leading up to Stewart's wreck, but every type of racing has a stretch now and then when people seem to be getting hurt - and worse - left and right. It's not that race fans are okay with that; I still can be stopped in a moment of disbelief when I realize Jason Leffler is no longer with us. However, we accept that as the price that is sometimes going to be paid as our heroes chase checkered flags and trophies.

Racing isn't entertainment. Of course it is entertaining, just look at the millions of us who eat, sleep, and breathe the sport. What I mean is that racing is real life, flesh and blood, and sometimes the flesh and blood end up as mangled as the fiberglass or sheetmetal bodies on these race cars. That is just how it is. We don't want that to happen, and I personally include in my nightly conversation with the Good Lord a prayer for everyone who will be driving a race car someplace on the coming day. But we've accepted that it can happen. That is just how it goes. Racing will never be totally safe. Hopefully we reach a point where lives are no longer at stake, but people are going to be hurt doing this now and then. That is just the fact of the matter when you push the limit every time out like our heroes do, regardless of what kind of car they're driving.

People seemed to have lost sight of that in the last decade, during stock car racing's big boom with the network TV contracts and what have you. It's as though these new fans thought that the worst that can happen in a crash is that someone's ego gets bruised up and they complain about it in an interview afterwards. Even some long time fans perhaps fell into that misconception. We've been lucky in NASCAR, with the worst injuries over the last 10 years being largely confined to broken bones that healed up without much drama, so it seems a lot of us have forgotten just how dangerous this deal really is.

I don't want to make it sound like stock car racing fans are ignorant, but the fact is, some of them are. When a tragedy like Dan Wheldon's IndyCar accident in October 2011 comes along, you get a lot of NASCAR fans talking about how everything needs to be changed on the cars and on the tracks and this, that, and the other. With sprint car racing's issues last summer, a lot of people wanted them overhauled or outlawed entirely. I'm sorry, but that is ignorant.

So is piling on Tony Stewart for having the audacity to live his life and go drive those cars when the notion hits him. Now, don't get me wrong, I would breathe a little easier if he was running a different kind of race car during his barnstorming - even though, like I said above, every racing discipline has its dangers (remember that country music singer who half-maimed himself in a go-kart race with Kevin Harvick?). As Tony has said time and time again since the accident, though, it is his life. Not mine. Tony's racing is among if not the top passions in my life, but that doesn't make it my life. Nor does it make it the life of anyone else who roots for the man. He doesn't owe it to us to quit living part of his life just because it keeps those of us that buy his gear and scream our throats raw in his pursuits of victory a little on edge.

To the contrary, we owe it to Tony to support him on what he does and to pray that the Man Upstairs keeps him safe while he's doing it. His sponsors and his employees, the people who are actually invested in what he does, are on board with it. Who are we to object?

I remember in the weeks after his accident, ESPN aired a piece during their pre-race about how his fans were handling his absence and the fact that he'd been hurt while off "playing" elsewhere. One of the fans they interviewed was this older lady who was wearing 14 gear, but she absolutely took him apart for getting hurt driving something other than his Sprint Cup car. By the time she was done spouting off, I wanted to reach through my television and strangle her. Guess what, sweetheart? Just because you are his fan and because your chosen form of motorsports is NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, that doesn't mean he should be restricted to just racing that No. 14 car on Sundays. Who do you think you are? Why don't you pony up the cash to sponsor his car or buy Stewart-Haas Racing from him and Gene Haas and then try to tell him what he can and can't do and how he can and can't live his life?

The fact of the matter is this: Tony Stewart is a race driver. He's not a NASCAR stock car driver, he's not a sprint car driver, he's not a midget driver. He's not a pavement driver or a dirt driver. He's a race driver. If there is a race, regardless of what discipline it is or what type of track surface it is on or whatever the payout is, he wants to win it and is going to give it his darndest to do so. He should be celebrated for that, not questioned or straight-up ridiculed.

His fans especially should back him up, and I would like to think most of us do. A huge part of why he's my driver is the fact that he can drive any kind of race car and win with it, and the same can be said for a lot of his other fans I'm sure. There are a few, though, who are like that lady I mentioned a couple paragraphs above that just do not get it. This is part of being a Stewart fan. If you can't handle that he is going to go race what, when, and where he wants to and that he isn't tied solely to NASCAR racing, then take all your Tony Stewart merchandise and put it on eBay (be sure to give me a heads up so maybe I can fill some of the holes in my own collection) and use the proceeds to start a Dale Earnhardt Jr. collection or something.

Tony transcends the various divisions of racing in which he hangs his helmet, and they all benefit from it. Fans gravitate towards him, and he takes them to the other places where he races and grows those divisions. I'm a born-and-bred stock car guy from Georgia and I probably always will be, but being a fan of Tony has made me a fan of all other kinds of racing too. Until 1998 - the year I became a Stewart fan - I'd never watched any IndyCar racing outside of the Indianapolis 500, but I tuned in at every opportunity that year to see how he did (though usually it seemed he blew up any time I did so). It's the same story with sports car racing, until he started running the Rolex 24 at Daytona with some regularity, I never really paid much attention to sports car racing. Since he was going there to race though, I tuned in and I got hooked. I still dream of the day when he crosses a sports car victory off his checklist. And of course, I love following the various dirt divisions and seeing how his cars and the man himself do on a given night.

The whole of motorsports is better because of Tony's participation in so many different disciplines. Instead of criticizing him and running down those circuits, fans should consider embracing it because it makes the sport stronger. We're all in this together, no matter what our favorite type of racing is. There are pluses to every division, and anything that makes them stronger is good for the whole of this sport we love. That's what makes his barnstorming and his ownership in so many divisions so great.

Of course, there is a chance that Tony could get hurt again. If that happens, so be it. He's living his life and that might happen. And if the ultimate worst-case scenario plays out, I would probably fail at his decree in his 2002 book "True Speed: My Racing Life" where he said "If I don't make it out of the next race I run, don't cry for me. That's an order." But I would take solace in the fact that he was doing what he wanted to do and living his life to the fullest. More of us could follow his example.

So keep doing what you want to do, Tony. Your real fans and those of us with this sport's best interest at heart are behind you 100%.


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Post Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:15 pm

Re: In Defense of Tony Stewart, One Year Later

Great read. Thanks for posting!


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Post Tue Aug 05, 2014 10:02 pm

Re: In Defense of Tony Stewart, One Year Later

Thanks for the post from Aaron...loved it :D He has such a way with words.... ;) ;) :D

From our one and only Tony....... :D :D 1yr ago today my life changed. Thank you to everyone that worked so hard to get me back to where I'm at today. It's your life, live it!
7:30 p.m. Tue, Aug 5

Gotta love that man...

I just wanted to add::::::
There is one person who always walks in Tony's shadow....who when the chips are down is always there, thru good times and bad he has been there for Tony....Opened his home for Tony and cared for him. A true friend......Eddie Jarvis...This was on his twitter account...Thank you Eddie for helping Tony during the hardest time in his life..... To have a friend like that is truly special...I know as a True Tony fan.....we all say Thank you!!

52 weeks ago tonight I got the phone call at 11:40pm. A lot has happened in the last year, but I would do it all again for him, truly would.
9:03 p.m. Mon, Aug 4

Last year the first race after the accident was Watkins Glen and you weren't there....NOW GO WIN
WATKINS GLEN.....and close that chapter in your life.....you will have come full circle in one of many of the circles in your life......

This song sooo reminds me of Tony...Enjoy


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Post Wed Aug 06, 2014 12:32 am

Re: In Defense of Tony Stewart, One Year Later

Another great read, Aaron! Impressed the he1l out of me that Tony himself had retweeted it!
"Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to"


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Post Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:07 am

Re: In Defense of Tony Stewart, One Year Later

Thanks for posting the article. Absolutely spot on! :D
I'm Living my life the way I want to..... Tony Stewart
Never Quit..... Marcus Luttrell Lone Survivor


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Post Wed Aug 06, 2014 9:48 am

Re: In Defense of Tony Stewart, One Year Later

Thanks y'all. I am still stunned that he RT'd it.
"This one's for every one of those fans in the stands that pull for me every week and take all the bull**** from everybody else." - Tony Stewart, July 29, 2007


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Post Wed Aug 06, 2014 1:30 pm

Re: In Defense of Tony Stewart, One Year Later

Thanks for the posting. I have always believed that Tony knows exactly what he is doing and why he does it. If we all could have that desire to follow what an amazing world we'd have. Tony knows where the bumps are and he usually gets around them but just like everyone else he had to go through one. If you have followed things Tony has said the past year one would know that after this accident he saw to it that the crew that saved his life was one of Tony's special projects. I can't go into actually what he did for this team as I don't have the story in front of me. Tony has said if it wasn't for the people that got him out of the wreckage he may not have survived or had his leg saved. As for anyone who follows racing in all sorts know that each tragedy has put safety as first to act upon. We could go on and on for what has been done over the past 60 years to keep the racer save. The window net, the neck brace, fire suits, car changes, track changes, the safer barriers, helmets for the crews. It goes on and on. As for being Tony's fan I have to respect what he does and not feel I have any right to object to what he does. He has known since he was a young boy who he was, what he wanted and how to go about getting it. He has a right to all of it.
The Military Thanks You For Standing Behind Them. If You Can't Do that You Can Always Stand In Front Of Them.....Think About It.....

Thank you to those who took a step forward to save the rest who stand still.


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Post Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:54 pm

Re: In Defense of Tony Stewart, One Year Later

I can still remember that awful morning when my husband broke the bad news to me that Tony had a serious accident. I just knew that he would have that fight in him to return to the track because racing is not what he does, it is who he is. Those who told him to stop his "extra" racing or to not race at all really don't have a clue. Most of them don't have a true passion for something so they can't understand why Tony would want to race all the time and that's a shame. Right now the talk of the sports world is about Paul George who sustained the same injury as Tony during a "non NBA" game and they are saying he should only play in NBA games. Really? That's not happening since he is a basketball player and wants to play! I think that people get hurt more often driving to work! It's amazing to me that everyone feels the need to tell others how to live their lives. As I've mentioned before, I'm a chef and guess what I do for enjoyment? I cook! And believe me, my family and friends, who don't enjoy cooking, are always telling me I'm crazy for the amount of time I spend cooking and devotion to my food business. I had to take Tony's attitude and just live my life...the way I want to.


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Post Wed Aug 06, 2014 11:33 pm

Re: In Defense of Tony Stewart, One Year Later

Kind of funny since the races he's entering now have been ok'd by Zippy and others. And what's been chosen is in lesser venues without the faster more talented drivers so there's less speed involved. Tony's not stupid, he knows he let his team and sponsors down by being out that long. You don't think that Mobil 1 sponsoring Kevin last week was a bit of a "hello"? Just saying... :D
"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe" - Friedrich Nietzsche


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Post Thu Aug 07, 2014 1:22 pm

Re: In Defense of Tony Stewart, One Year Later

Aaron... this is OUTSTANDING!!!!! :-)

Outstanding article, so it's no surprise that he re-tweeted it, :-)

When you get all fat-head popular, invited to all the races, asked for your opinion on anything ... will you remember me? hee hee hee :-)
Smoke 'em if ya got 'em!

Sh*t happens... but don't worry, it usually happens to me.


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Post Thu Aug 07, 2014 2:39 pm

Re: In Defense of Tony Stewart, One Year Later

Extremely well done Aaron...... Glad to see you back writing.... Keep it up
1994 USAC Midget Champion ** 1995 USAC Midget Champion ** 1995 USAC Sprint Car Champion ** 1995 USAC Silver Crown Champion
1997 Indy Car Champion ** 2006 IROC Champion ** 2002 NASCAR Champion ** 2005 NASCAR Champion ** 2011 NASCAR Champion


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Post Fri Aug 08, 2014 9:30 am

Re: In Defense of Tony Stewart, One Year Later

Great post Tish. Those of us who are Tony fans only want the best for him. I wish him continued healing and wish him well at Watkins this weekend. I will be there to cheer him on.
"This is my house" Tony at the Glen

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