Geoff’s Journal: Performance and declining
Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Tony Stewart pits during the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in May.
Of course, every
time you get in a racecar, you want to perform at a competitive level.
I was the same way when I was racing. It’s very frustrating when you’re not running well. People from the outside point fingers—sometimes as the driver, sometimes the crew chief, or other members of the team—but they have no idea on what’s going on.
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The only ones that know what’s going in are the people who are working with the team.
It’s a tough situation. Sometimes you know it’s you, but sometimes you know it’s something else.
My career declined a little different than most because of the wreck at Daytona in 2000. After that accident, my career became part-time. I had a couple good seasons with Phoenix Racing, almost winning the Daytona 500 in 2002.
It was hard to let go, so I started helping friends and teams that had no funding. They were struggling, but I told people that it was my business to help somebody if I wanted to. It didn’t matter what I looked like doing it… I had nothing to prove or gain by doing it.
But as I look back on some of the cars I drove, some of the situations I put myself in were pretty silly. But still, I would do it again because I love helping people.
I’ve seen some of the older drivers doing the same thing over their last years of their career, and I think to myself, “that’s how I looked.”
I still felt I was in competitive equipment and with good teams, and I still think I could be competitive at the Sprint Cup level. What’s wrong with me? I’m crazy.
It’s second nature to go race, and I enjoy helping Bo Lemastus in ARCA, but these guys all drive hard. I don’t know if I want to drive hard anymore. Plus, I’m not in the shape to do it.
I didn’t read the newspapers or listen to the radio shows. People can be quite mean and misinformed. I always called it the power of the pen and the power of the microphone—people can write and say anything they want, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.
Jeff Gordon leads Dale Earnhardt at the 1998 Brickyard 400.
I was labeled a not very nice, stuck up guy. I wouldn’t go to the bars and hangouts that the other drivers and media would go to after races. I would load up my car in the hauler and drive home so I could continue working on the cars so we could be faster at the track.
By doing things that way, I left the impression I wasn’t a friendly guy, but I’d like to think I am. I love to be around people and love to help.
It frustrates you that the media can talk and write about things that aren’t very accurate, but doesn’t bother you because you know who you are at the end of the day.
I went through a divorce; I went through some really tough times through my career when I owned the No. 7 car. I know from first-hand experience how difficult it is to perform when you’re dealing with other issues away from the track.
I can only report on what I was thinking about and what I was going through. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I do know that when there are distractions, it makes your ability to drive a racecar a lot more difficult.
Tony Stewart is one of the best racecar drivers of all-time. He’s smart enough to figure out if it’s time to be just a car owner, or if he needs a little time to get things going.
Tony Stewart addresses the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway in August 2014.
We’re not buddies. I don’t live in the North Carolina area anymore and I don’t attend many races.
One of the things I remember about Tony was back at New Hampshire Motor Speedway towards the end of my career. He was doing quite well in the race, but he ran out of gas. Something happened to my car, so I was already out of the race.
I met him as we were leaving the racetrack. He was very upset about his race day. I look at him and say “hey Tony”. He stopped. I told him “You’re going to win a lot of races, and what happened today, your crew didn’t do it on purpose. They made a mistake—we all do. Think about that, but you’ve got a great crew. You’ve got a great team. Don’t let it bother you too much.”
Hopefully it helped him calm down that day, but he’s very smart. He’s gone on to win a lot of races and championships.
I don’t think it’s unexpected for anybody to go through a little slump. He’s the only one that knows where he’s at, but the only advice I can give ANYONE is to turn to God. Turn to the Lord.
Just talk to the Lord. You just turn to him and ask for advice and direction. The Lord will lead you, but you have to believe.