Tony Stewart is a rare thing—a real racer. Not just a driver, but a racer. For some people there may be no difference but to those who really love racing—in whose hearts the engines always roar—the difference is obvious and it is paramount. It is what makes the driver they call Smoke,well, Smoke.
As the 2017 season begins, for the first time in a long time, Stewart will find himself somewhere other than the driver’s seat of his Number 14 Ford. The decision, while not taken lightly, has been a good one for Stewart especially after a serious back injury at the beginning of last season. On several occasions Stewart has mentioned that “It will be nice to be at the track and not be sore and not be uncomfortable sitting on the pit box.”
He looks forward to being able to focus on the cars, the team, and the development of both as Stewart Haas Racing enters a new season. The team has been working around the clock to prepare the new Fords after a switch in manufacturers and is optimistic the new cars will be ready to win by the time Daytona rolls around. Clint Bowyer will be taking over the seat for Stewart come February and Stewart is eager to lend his knowledge and expertise wherever he can.
It’s not uncommon for racers to have a challenge when it comes to retiring from racing. The fact that Stewart can’t walk away from NASCAR is not, however, what makes him a a racer. What makes him a racer is the over 80 midgets, sprint cars, and late models. Stewart will still be racing and doing so on what he loves most: dirt tracks. Tony Stewart may be retiring from NASCAR but he’s not retiring from racing—he can’t. What flows through his veins, his heart, is as wild as the dirt cars he drives. He is a racer, he has a need not just for speed, but for actual racing. It is one of the things that make him the racer he is. The guys in his sprint car shop have, along with the Cup team, been working hard to give Stewart the cars he needs to win on small tracks across America, including the ones he has never raced on before. It’s these tracks that Stewart is most excited about racing on.
“I know it sounds like I’m a rookie driver, but I kind of feel like one,” Stewart said. “There’s a bunch of tracks and a bunch of events that I’ve not raced at before that I’m going to finally get to go to.”
That is what makes Stewart a racer, that ready to drive anything that rolls, anywhere, anytime. He has retired from the Big Leagues of NASCAR to run as hard and as fast as he can on every small track—in every car—he possibly can.