One Year Later: Smoke Talks Sprint Car Return
“So, anybody that asked me or told me that I shouldn’t do this, in my opinion, was selfish — more selfish than what they were accusing me of by doing,” the former USAC, IndyCar Series and IROC champion said. “You got to have something that you are passionate about. You got to have something that you are into that you love. This is what I love. It’s not just dirt track racing. I love racing period. I love racing a Cup car. I loved racing Indy cars. I’ve run supermodifieds, big-block modifieds, midgets, sprint cars, you name it…anything and everything.
“Racing’s what I want to do. So, if wanting to race is wrong then what am I here for? Why am I doing any of this? Why do I work so hard with all the companies that I have? So I can go race? Why do I do this? I might as well get rid of the Cup teams. I might as well get rid of Eldora Speedway, why do I do it? If working that hard keeps you from doing what you’re supposed to be doing then why am I doing it? Why do I have any of this?”
Stewart talked at length about the black eye he believes the sport received from the negative media attention given his injury.
“…It was like someone pulled a pin on a grenade. You realized that it just hurt more than anything that I did before that helped,” Stewart said. “And sprint car racing is strong enough, the true core fans, it was going to survive but it got a black eye that it didn’t deserve. The people that maybe thought, ah I might want to go see one of these, now they read it and they’re like I don’t want anything to do with it.
“And people see that I’m going to go run a sprint car, a sprint car to them is like the devil. It has nothing to do with cars or anything like that, many of them haven’t seen what one looks like,” Stewart added. “But they think just because I got hurt in it that something’s wrong. And every type of race car has people get hurt in them all the time. There was just a string with Jason Leffler, Josh Burton, Kramer Williamson, myself, in a pretty short amount of time, that it got a black eye that it didn’t deserve and the stuff that was being written about wasn’t researched well, wasn’t thought about well, it was just a big publication saying we’ve got to put something out about it and people scrambling to put together articles and all they could write about was the stuff they knew about, which was not enough to have a great article about it to begin with.”
Positive changes have come to sprint car racing as a result of Stewart’s accident and the deaths last year of sprint car racers Kramer Williamson, Josh Burton and Jason Leffler.
“Something good has come out of it,” Stewart said. “C&R and Jimmy Carr (Tony Stewart Racing team manager) came up with a tether system that we run in our cars that I’m very confident with, if we would have had that last year, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. We would have never had the problem. But the good news is that we’ve got it now. Some other companies have come up with torque tube tunnels, like a driveshaft tunnel that protect for the same thing.
“It did start a movement,” he added. “Knoxville Raceway, the World of Outlaws, the All Stars all made front end tethers mandatory, so then we just took that a step further and worked on with the torque tube having two tethers from that to the rear end to keep the rear end from going back.”
To see the full interview with Stewart, tune into “SPEED SPORT Magazine” Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET on MAVTV.