Stewart Having Too Much Fun

RICHMOND, Va. – Tony Stewart just can’t help himself. But that might be a good thing.

In this era of specialization, Stewart is a throwback. Or at least he wants to be. He wants to be a guy who can go from a stock car to a Midget to a dirt car to an IndyCar – all in the same week – and run up front.

That would be a dream for the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing Pontiac on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. This week, Stewart lived that dream, at least a little bit. He raced an ARCA dirt car for Andy Petree in Duquoin, Ill. on Monday, and competed in a Craftsman Truck Series race at Richmond International Raceway on Thursday night in a Petree truck.

Friday, Stewart will be back in his Winston Cup car, practicing and qualifying for the Chevrolet Monte Carlo 400 on Saturday night.

Running in all those series is part of the fun, but the most enjoyment is from running well. Well, he finished second in the dirt car and won the NCTS race. And he’s won three Winston Cup races at RIR, including the race here in May.

“This was a fun week,” Stewart said. “This was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. The last few days, there’s been no pressure. They didn’t put any pressure on me to win. The goal of the whole week was to have fun. If we blew up, we blew up. If we wrecked, we wrecked. If we won, we were all going to have a good time with it.”

That’s made for a Happy Stewart. And a Happy Stewart is a Fast Stewart – and it’s a lot better for his mental outlook. This is the same guy who shoved a photographer after the Brickyard 400, landing him on probation and getting him fined.

But after the truck race, the side of Stewart that needs anger-management classes was nowhere to be seen.

“I’ll be really refreshed, and I’ll have a light step when I come in here,” Stewart said. “I’ll just be happy.”

Several of his Winston Cup crewmen were with him Thursday, which means some of them will be pumped up by the time the car is unloaded Friday.

“It’s definitely a boost for the weekend, for sure,” Stewart said. “I don’t know how big it’s going to be. At least it’s got us off in the right direction.”

And it’s definitely got Stewart going in the right direction. He’s a guy who seems to NEED to be in a race car. His best anger-management class? Driving a car.

“Somebody asked me a couple weeks ago, ‘If you died tomorrow, how do you want people to remember you?’ ” Stewart said. “The one thing I’ve always taken a lot of pride in my 23 years of racing is that whatever type of car I got in, I was competitive. Didn’t always win, but was competitive and had an opportunity to win.

“That’s the one thing that always impressed me about A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti. Those are two guys who can get in different types of cars and can win.”

Foyt and Andretti are legends in racing. But Stewart stopped short of comparing himself to them.

“I’m not saying I’m like those guys by any means,” Stewart said. “You look at both of their records, and I’m way behind those guys.”

But he’d like to get there.

“The one guy I admire more than anybody is probably Kenny Schrader,” Stewart said. “He’s the only guy who races more than me. That makes me upset.”

Stewart is only half-kidding. There’s more envy than anger at Schrader’s exploits. Schrader is one of the few guys who lists “racing” as his hobby. Some drivers unwind by fishing – which Stewart likes, but he doesn’t care for the 6 a.m. wake-up calls – while others play video games.

Stewart? Driving is his hobby, too. That’s why he raced the dirt car and the truck this week.

“It’s just fun,” Stewart said. “Coming here and not worrying about points, not worrying about prize money. We raced Thursday just for the fun of racing.”

“Not saying the rest of the weekend won’t be fun, but the rest of it is a little more serious.”

Gibbs has tried to curtail Stewart’s extra-curricular activities, preferring Stewart not risk life and limb. But maybe Gibbs should reconsider. Racing pumps life into Stewart like nothing else.

“People who saw me in a stock car on dirt knew that we were the fastest car and knew that I was competitive and had a shot at winning,” Stewart said. “(Thursday), we had a shot at winning, and we won. We’ve got a shot Saturday, probably.

“To be able to go in three different types of cars in one week, and in every one of those cars I was competitive in and had an opportunity to win – that’s what means the most to me.”

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