If anyone was born to be a racer, it is Tony Stewart. You only have to look at this Indiana native’s racing career to see why many are comparing him to A.J. Foyt and Dale Earnhardt Sr. Despite the comparisons, Stewart is a unique driver and he is carving out his own page in racing history.
Stewart started winning championships as a youngster when he took the Four-Cycle Rookie Junior Championship at the Columbus, Indiana Fairgrounds in 1980. He followed that up with the International Karting Federation Championship in 1983. In 1987, Stewart won the World Karting Association National Championship. Pretty impressive for a teen barely old enough to have a drivers license.
Stewart traded in the karts for open wheelers in 1989. He raced Three-Quarter Midgets, entered the USAC ranks in 1991–and was crowned Rookie of the Year. Stewart won the USAC championship title in 1994 after winning five races in the National Midget category. The year 1995 was a phenomenal year for Tony Stewart. He was the first racer ever award USACs Triple Crown for being the champion in the Sprint, National Midget and Silver Crown Series.
Tony joined Team Menard to drive in the Indy Racing League in 1996. Tony finished the season with the Rookie of the Year title and an eighth place standing in the points. Typical Tony Stewart, he went on to win the Indy Racing League Championship in 1997. Indy cars weren’t the only thing occupying Stewart’s time. He was also driving in the Busch series for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Stewart entered the NASCAR Winston Cup series as a full time driver for Joe Gibbs in 1999. The racing world took notice of Stewart when he qualified second for the first race of the ’99 season, the legendary Daytona 500. Tony Stewart finished out his first season and was crowned Rookie of the Year with a fourth place finish in the standings. This was the best finish of a rookie driver in almost two decades.
Tony went on to finish seventh in the standings in 2000, and second in 2001. Tony Stewart was a man on a mission and he was crowned NASCAR Winston Cup Champion in 2002. Stewart showed the world what his father, Nelson, had known since Tony was a child. Tony was born to sit behind the wheel.
Tony Stewart’s career has not been without controversy. His dry sense of humor has confused many and his competitive streak often makes others perceive him as aloof. Stewart does have a short fuse, and Nascar’s penalty book can attest to the fact. However, the 2004 racing season has brought a more mellow Tony Stewart to the foreground. His desire to win hasn’t waned, and drivers know that Stewart is a force to be reckoned with on the track. However, Tony seems to be more relaxed off the track. He attests this to moving back to his hometown and actually living in his old childhood home.
Tony Stewart is in the prime of his career, and will undoubtedly have more championships under his belt before it’s all said and done. On his off time he can be found at various tracks around the nation doing what he loves best. Racing.
by Wendy Jackson for RacerWeek.com
Source by Wendy Jackson