Southsider Voice correspondent
Tony Stewart just wants to move ahead with his life.
The Hoosier-born racer wants to put the turmoil of 2013 and ’14 behind him. Stewart, 43, has not raced a full NASCAR season since 2012, when he won three races and was ninth in points.
His first setback was a broken leg in a sprint car race in 2012; his final surgery is set for December. Last year at a dirt track race in New York, he was involved in a bizarre on-track incident that resulted in the death of driver Kevin Ward Jr. Stewart sat out the next three races and went into seclusion in Columbus.
Those incidents did not dampen the 2014 Sprint Cup championship earned by first-year Stewart-Haas
driver Kevin Harvick. Nonetheless, last year was a personal disaster.
“When they counted down (2014) I was never so happy to see that number go off the calendar,” Stewart
said. “I’m not too happy with the last two years of my life by any means. It’s given me more desire to
drive and to get back to being Tony.”
Stewart curtailed his off-season activities but helped prepare the Chili Bowl dirt track in Oklahoma,
and he bought the All-Star Circuit of Champions national sprint car series.
“Deep down inside I know who I am as a person, and I know who I am as a driver, and that’s what I
want to get back to,” Stewart said on the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour in late January.
“This is physically the best I’ve felt since my accident.
Stewart returns behind the wheel of the No. 14 Chevrolet for the Daytona 500, a race he has never
won, although he has captured four 400-mile races at Daytona.
“You look at marquee events around the world, and not only in NASCAR but in all of motor sports – the 24 Hours of LeMans, the 24 Hours at Daytona, the Indy 500, the Knoxville Nationals,” Stewart said earlier this week at Daytona. “To be a driver that can cross off one of those marquee events as a winner,
that cements your legacy in motor sports.
Hopefully with his demons of the last two years behind him, Stewart can become a championship
contender again. He just wants to race.
“I don’t feel I have to prove anything to anybody,” Stewart said. “This is what I want do, not what I
have to show people I can do. It’s because I want to be competitive – I want to win races again – that’s the
Team co-owner Stewart enters the season with teammates Harvick, Kurt Busch and Danica Patrick. Harvick, who moved to Stewart-Haas Racing from Richard Childress Racing, captured the dramatic 2014 Sprint Cup championship with the reformatted Chase.
“They won the championship with the right tools in place to have that success,” Stewart said. “It’s putting
the magic together. There is definitely room for improvement on the other three teams.”
Certainly teammates Busch and Patrick have dilemmas, too.
Busch is embroiled in a domestic abuse dispute with former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll, who has accused
him of assaulting her last year inside an RV at Dover (Del.) Speedway. Busch has provided his side
of the story to Dover Police Department investigators.
Busch would like to return to the Indianapolis 500, where he finished fifth and became the fourth driver to do The Double by competinng in the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day.
“It is nice to have Tony Stewart’s blessing to run Indy and have Michael Andretti give me the access to come back,” Busch said. “It’s something we haven’t talked about. There have been plenty of other
things this offseason to stay focused on.”
Patrick launches her third season in Sprint Cup racing Sunday in the Daytona 500. She snared the pole position last year and had three top 10 finishes in 2014.