Is it the right time for Stewart to retire?
Photo by Jarec C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images
Tony Stewart at Daytona International Speedway in February 2015.
Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Steven Ellis
October 7, 2015
Man, what's going on these days?
In 2013, Mark Martin sorta, kinda, maybe
called it quits. In 2014, Terry Labonte announced he was done a full ten years
after the first time he did that. And of course, you've probably heard about
Jeff Gordon's decision to sit out permanently.
And now, Tony Stewart's NASCAR career is on
its final legs.
It's going to be very strange to see both the No. 24 and No. 14 on the track with completely different drivers behind-the-wheel. In one case, we've got a young guy starting the biggest step of his young career in Chase Elliott, while the Stewart-Haas entry will be piloted by a long-time veteran in Clint Bowyer.
Yeah, I know, weird. But let's talk about Tony.
Photo by Benjamin Palmer/TheRacingExperts.com
Tony Stewart drives down pit road at Phoenix International Raceway in March 2015.
He's the very person who got me into NASCAR about 16 years ago. I modeled the way I raced after him, I learned about dealing with the media from him (maybe not the best mentor) and his involvement in IndyCar and Grand-Am many years ago helped expose me to more forms of racing.
For the past three seasons, it hasn't felt like he really was a NASCAR driver, though. It's been over two years since the last time any of his fans had a chance to celebrate one of his Sprint Cup wins.
Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images
It's rare to hear about him in the news these days without hearing about his impending lawsuit or his terrible chemistry with his team. It's all just a bunch of negatives in relation to Tony, and there is only so much a driver can take.
That's why, after all these years, I think the time is right for him to finish up his illustrious career. It's just painful to watch.
Why potentially tarnish your legacy with awful efforts, kind of like what the Labonte brothers have been up to in recent years? Tony Stewart is a winner, and right now, it doesn't seem like he's Tony Stewart.
He's won three championship titles with three different points systems. He's won 48 races, yet still chases the elusive Daytona 500 title. He's accomplished more than most drivers will ever dream of in any era.
He did it in a Pontiac Grand Prix, he did it in a Chevy Monte Carlo and he did it in a Chevy Impala. He knows how to be a champion, and victory lane is a semi-permanent location for him.
But, again, just not right now.
Things aren't looking good for him and his team. While Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick are favorites to compete for the championship, Tony sits in 25th place, on pace for the statistically worst season of his career. It almost feels like Stewart-Haas Racing is actually split into two different organizations, kind of how Chip Ganassi's IndyCar team seems to have an A-Team and a B-Team every season.
We all know he loves racing. Maybe he'll go back and do the 24 Hours of Daytona again. Maybe he can finally do the 24 Hours of LeMans to add another huge race to his resume. Just because he's retiring from NASCAR doesn't mean he should stay away from the sport that dictates his entire life.
It could create more exciting opportunities to see him race even more than he does now. He said he'd love to do some dirt racing, something he hasn't done since the tragic accident in 2014.
I've talked to both fans and media about this. Is this really the right decision? Is this just a rough patch that he can overcome? Even if it's not about his current performance, he's 44-years-old. It's not realistic to expect him to have a late career rush like Mark Martin did once he joined Hendrick Motorpsorts.
I've seen Tony race in the Sprint Cup Series, the old CASCAR Series (now known as the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series) and in sprint cars. Easily, he was the happiest when racing for fun and not for points. It's an end of an era and the start of another.
The last few years couldn't have been fun for him, so taking off his biggest pressure could really be beneficial. He still has a team to run, the same team he's helped run since 2009, but now he's got the chance to really build upon a successful race team. And, hey, maybe he can go out and win a few other major events he hasn't been able to do yet.
Maybe relieving the pressure of keeping the announcement a secret all season long will allow him to concentrate. This might allow him to fight for a few wins next year and maybe even a championship. His problems with Chad Johnson all year could calm down and allow him them to focus on one goal. Who knows? So many "maybe's" right now, but that just makes the future exciting.
Thank you, Tony. Thanks for everything.