So ends an era. Tony Stewart – a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion with nearly 50 wins – has retired. Though the man called ‘Smoke’ finished 22nd in his final race, he ended his phenomenal career not with a frown, but with a satisfied look on his face. Click to watch.
“I’m proud,” Tony, 45, said when asked how he was feeling as he got out of the #14 car for the last time, according to ESPN. Though he failed to capture the checked flag at the finale of the 2016 NASCAR season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he didn’t seem too disappointed with how his career ended. “It’s been an awesome 21 years racing in the Xfinity Series and [Sprint] Cup Series.”
“It is still hard to digest it all right now,” Tony added. “The whole day was awesome. You couldn’t ask for it to be a better day…Probably the best part was your peers and fellow drivers and crew chiefs and crew members.”
In fact, Tony – a true fan of the sport – turned his eyes away from the end of his career and to the accomplishment of his fellow racer, Jimmie Johnson, 41. “But it’s really cool to see that #48 [car] up there making history,” Tony said, referencing how Jimmie had won his seventh Sprint Cup championship with a win at Homestead. “Now, we got three guys in the 7-win club.”
That’s right! Jimmie – who fended off fellow competitors Joey Logano, 26, Kyle Busch, 31, and Carl Edwards, 37 – now joins Richard Petty, 72, and Dale Earnhardt in the rare club of NASCAR drivers who won seven championships. Tony, who himself won three Sprint Cups in 618 races (winning 49 of them), was glad that he was able to witness history be made. “Pretty proud day. I was glad I got to race with him on the day he got his seventh.”
While Tony won’t be behind the wheel of the #14 car next season, he’s not done with NASCAR. He happens to be owner of the Stewart-Haas Racing Team (which consists of Kevin Harvick, 40, Danica Patrick, 34, Clint Bowyer, 37, and Kurt Busch, 38). Plus, he’s still going to drive. Tony’s expected to participate on short track races and off-road competitions. He’s even postponed surgery to remove the screws from his fractured vertebra, just so that he can jump into the drivers seat as soon as possible.
“No surgeries,” Tony said. “We’re free and clear this year on surgeries.” As to when he’s going to race again, he couldn’t say. “I don’t know. Stay tuned.” Well, here’s hoping Tony takes a moment to look back on his career and enjoy all his amazing accomplishments. Way to go, Smoke!
HollywoodLifers, are you sad that Tony’s no longer driving? Leave your favorite Smoke moment below.