NASCAR’s Tony Stewart Means Big Business

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COMMENTARY | Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart is more than just a race car driver - he's also a savvy businessman who owns his Cup Series team, Stewart-Haas Racing; an open-wheel team, Tony Stewart Racing; and a number of race tracks, including historic Eldora Speedway in Ohio, which has a lot going on in July. All this action, says Stewart, is pretty commonplace in his life.

"Honestly it's just kind of business as usual," said Stewart on a recent NASCAR teleconference. "It is a very hectic schedule. I've got 11 sprint car races in the next two weeks so I've got a lot of stuff going on on top of what we're doing with the Sprint Cup Series and the Truck Series at Eldora. A lot going on for sure, but we've got a lot of great people."

Following this weekend's King's Royal at Eldora, one of the most prestigious races on the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series schedule, track preparation begins for the first NASCAR race on dirt since 1970, the "Mudsummer Classic" for the Camping World Truck Series on Wednesday, July 24, coinciding with NASCAR's annual trip to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As someone who cut his teeth on dirt track racing before competing in both the Indy Racing League and NASCAR, Stewart knows a number of drivers will have a challenge ahead of them.

"I think a lot of those guys, it's going to be the first time they've raced on dirt," said Stewart. "I think it's going to be a big challenge for the teams and drivers. When we went and did the test there, we actually battled a little bit of weather ourselves. The track conditions were very, very sticky. But I think when the track slicks off there, it will slow the pace down a little bit, make it a little more comfortable for some of those guys. Even though it sounds like slicker would be more trouble, I think when the pace slows down due to a slick track like that, they'll run more like pavement, they'll run straighter through the corners and not sideways as much.

Stewart continues, "I think they'll enjoy it. It's a neat facility. Like I say, it's well-lit, it's a wide racetrack, it gives you a lot of options of where you can go and what you can do. I think it gives those guys an opportunity. The practice day on Tuesday should help a lot of those teams be able to get acclimated before they come back to the track on Wednesday."

On the Sprint Cup side of things, Stewart recently confirmed one of the worst-kept secrets in NASCAR: Kevin Harvick and Budweiser are joining SHR in 2014. The team will continue as a three-car team, with Stewart, Harvick and Danica Patrick; Ryan Newman will be leaving at the end of the season. "We are not ready to expand to a fourth team," said Stewart of the announcement. "Unfortunately, this will be the last year that we have Ryan with us. That's probably what has made this a bittersweet day. I'm bringing in another one of my friends to the organization, but also knowing that I'm losing a friend at the end of the year to the organization."

Business decisions aside, Stewart is heading into a part of the NASCAR season where not only do the temperatures heat up: So does "Smoke." It's a mystery to Stewart how things work out that way.

"I would say probably the last 13 or 14 years, people have been asking me that same question, " said Stewart. "I never have had a good answer. I honestly don't know. The only thing I can think of is just the tracks get hot and get slick. Seems like when the tracks get slick, that plays into your driving style a little bit. I really don't have any scientific explanation or anything of why…history shows, the stats show, this is the time of year when we get running better."

While it's the right time of the year for Stewart, he admits to being a bit nervous about upcoming races. "We've had such an up-and-down season so far that hopefully if we can go well at Loudon, we got to do the tire test for Goodyear at Indy, I'm looking forward to coming back to the Brickyard and hopefully taking what we learned at the test there and utilizing it," said Stewart. "Watkins Glen, I mean, I'm nervous about Watkins Glen now. We were so bad at Sonoma that we're definitely going to have to go to work and find a lot to get our car better. But they're all tracks that historically we've been good at. It's just this year we've fought trying to keep the car balanced, doing the things we need to do to be fast every week."

The two-time Brickyard 400 winner is looking forward to going to his home track, Indianapolis, a place he has been obsessed with since an early age. "(Kissing the bricks) was everything to me. My whole life, since I was a kid, that's what I wanted to do. Not that I had some fascination with kissing bricks as a child. But my fascination to do it here was pretty obsessive."

Source: "Transcript: NASCAR Teleconference with Tony Stewart," NASCAR Media, July 11, 2013

Paula is a freelance writer and photographer specializing in motorsports. She also covers NASCAR at and Skirts & Scuffs.

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