Stewart Ready For Busy Week
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on July 22, 2014 | 9:44 A.M. EST
Tony Stewart, shown during last year's Camping World Truck event at Eldora Speedway, is ready for a big week this week.
Tony Stewart has a full plate of responsibilities this week as NASCAR visits Eldora Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Stewart will wear three hats this week, including driver, team owner and track owner.
His track obligations kick in at Eldora as the Camping World Truck Series makes its second appearance for Wednesday night’s 1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic. Last year’s first dirt race for one of NASCAR’s top divisions in more than 40 years proved popular with drivers and fans.
Stewart is hoping for good things again this time around.
“It's about as close to being a proud father as I can imagine being,” Stewart joked about his role running the venerable Ohio dirt track. “It's really cool. The fun part of it now is getting down to the last couple of days, and the biggest thing I worry about is this weather right now more than anything.’’
The National Weather Service’s forecast for Rossburg, Ohio, where the track is located, calls for a 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms but any rain will be mainly between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. That could impact practice sessions during the day. Qualifying is set for 5:10 p.m. with the heat races scheduled for 7:10 p.m. and the feature race at 9 p.m.
Stewart says less than 1,000 reserved seats remain for Wednesday’s event and walk-up seats remain for lawn seating.
As a successful driver who ventured into team ownership, Stewart didn’t envision himself getting involved in the track side of the motorsports business. But his affinity for Eldora and the timing of when the opportunity to purchase the track came about led to his newest role.
“Honestly, it was never really on my radar,” said Stewart, who also is involved in ownership at other dirt tracks. “Owning the race tracks or the race teams was never part of the master plan. They were all just circumstances. Pretty much everything that I've done in my career has been an opportunity that's come up at the right time. I got a call from Earl Baltes one day, and he said, "I need you to come see me. I've got something I want to talk to you about."
“But the success of Eldora isn't at all due to what I've done with it, it's due to what Earl and Bernice Baltes had done for the first 50 years of the race track.”
Once the checkered flag flies Wednesday, Stewart will test his sights on Indy and getting a win in the Brickyard 400. As an Indiana native, Stewart has always had a reverence for the famed facility but admits with his open-wheel background, he wasn’t enamored with the idea of stock cars racing at the famed track.
“Honestly, I was one of them that absolutely thought it was a crime initially,’’ Stewart said. “I'm a purist. I'm old school. It's always been sacred ground to me. I remember when they did the tire test there and everybody ‑ there was so much excitement after that - and that really didn't even get me to switch sides. I was actually in Illinois the day that the Brickyard ran, and when I got back and saw the replay of the race it was very evident that this was something that wasn't breaking religion, so to speak, or sacrilegious for it to be there. It really showed why NASCAR belonged there.
“But I was one of them that didn't like it at first until I actually got back and saw the replay of the race and saw how much excitement it brought. It was the month of May historically, and all of a sudden it was the month of May and August now, and you had the same historic race track and now you had two events instead of one.”
Stewart will be shooting for a third win in the prestigious event but also has an opportunity to kiss the bricks as well in his team co-ownership role should one of his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates - Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch or Danica Patrick - take the checkered flag.
But first is ensuring that Wednesday night’s Mudsummer Classic goes off without a hitch.
“My job is to show up and worry and get in their way,” Stewart said of his waiting staff.
“I'll ... be a pain in their butt. I'll act normal, I'm sure.”
Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage of Wednesday's 1-800-CarCash MudSummer Classic at 8 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com. MRN will provide online coverage of the qualifying races starting at 7 p.m. (ET).