COMMENTARY | Just a few days ago, on Friday during his media session, Tony Stewart was joking about how concerned so many people were about a recent sprint car crash he was part of.
"You mortals have got to learn, you guys need to watch more sprint car videos and stuff," he said. "It was not a big deal. It's starting to get annoying this week about that so that was just an average sprint car wreck. When they wreck they get upside down like that. That was not a big deal."
He went on to say: " I guarantee you there were 15-20 guys across the country that flipped just like that this weekend and were just fine just like we were. If it's bad we will let you guys know. That was not bad at all. I raced the next night and ran fifth and the World of Outlaw race. It was not bad."
I bet he's not joking so much today.
On Monday night, Stewart got wrecked while racing a winged sprint car at Southern Iowa Speedway, breaking his leg (tibia and fibula) in the process. Stewart was taken to the hospital and had surgery.
What this means is that Tony's day job will be interrupted. He won't race this weekend at Watkins Glen, and no timetable for his return has been announced. With this development, he is effectively out of the running to make the Chase and compete for the championship (which is good news for everyone else trying to make the Chase in a tight battle).
As far as how this injury will affect Tony and his seemingly endless desire to race as many nights of the week as possible in any kind of vehicle he can race in, here's what I see changing (hint: not much):
1. Tony Stewart is a racing addict -- moreso than anyone else racing every Sunday at the Cup level. This injury will not change that. Sure, he'll be on the sidelines for a little while, both from NASCAR and his sprint car and other side gigs, but the minute the doctors clear him to race you can bet he'll be back at it without delay.
2. Since Tony has taken many tumbles in the sprint car ranks this year, many people might believe this kind of scare might change him by making him more concerned about his health and risk of injury or worse, especially in the wake of Jason Leffler's death earlier this year. But again, that's not in Tony's nature. Tony Stewart and the others who do the job he does are daredevils by nature. Things that normal people fear, he craves. I've been in racecars with the professionals driving full speed. While I was a bit terrified, they were laughing and enjoying themselves. They're just wired differently.
Leffler's death earlier this year in a sprint car got many people's attention, but Stewart, at the time, didn't seem too concerned -- saying, "There will be more people that die in car crashes today than die in race cars today. It's just part of it and I am one of those that believe when it's your time, it's your time."
3. Lot of folks will cry for Tony Stewart to stop these other forms of racing they believe are more dangerous to him. Heck, some of his sponsors might even get on that bandwagon now because of the injury that will lead to him missing races. But don't bet on Tony taking any of these people's advice. He is not the type to change his lifestyle due to concerns of others. He enjoys it, it's what he does, and it's what he'll always do as long as he's able.
Many of us on the outside may think it's logical that Tony quits this risky behavior and focus on his day job, but that viewpoint forgets something critical about Tony Stewart: Risky behavior is what he's all about, and no injury is going to change that. Unlike some other drivers, he is the team owner so he can do whatever he wants and have few repercussions or people up high telling him what to do. It's Tony's prerogative to race as he wishes.
Perhaps he may slow down to some degree, at least when he first returns from injury, but those who think Tony Stewart is done with sprint car racing have another thing coming.
Matt Myftiu lives in Michigan, has been a walking encyclopedia of NASCAR since immersing himself in the sport over 15 years ago, and has worked as a journalist for two decades. His blog on the sport, NASCAR: Beyond the Track, has been published by The Oakland Press for the past 5 years. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu.
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