Tony Stewart keeping busy before Brickyard 400
BY TINA AKOURIS Sun-Times Media July 26, 2012 8:44PM
Tony Stewart is confident he’ll be able to field a three-car team in 2013 with Danica Patrick set to race a full Cup schedule. | Wesley Hitt~Getty Images
Brickyard 400 weekend
Brickyard Sports Car Challenge, noon.
Brickyard Grand Prix, 3:10 p.m.
Sprint Cup practice No. 1, 7:30 a.m. (Speed).
Sprint Cup practice No. 2, 9:30 a.m.
Nationwide qualifying, 11:35 a.m. (Speed).
Sprint Cup qualifying, 1:10 p.m. (ESPN).
Indiana 250, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN).
Brickyard 400, noon (ESPN).
Updated: August 28, 2012 6:21AM
Tony Stewart is known for his hot temper on the racetrack, but get him away from it, and he’s just a guy from Columbus, Ind., who likes to race cars and help people.
The defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion has a soft spot for charity. The Tony Stewart Foundation raises money for ill children and disabled former race-car drivers. One of his favorite activities is giving backpacks filled with school supplies to children.
“You see the direct results of this in those kids, the smiles on their faces after getting these supplies,” Stewart said Wednesday before a backpack giveaway in Indianapolis. “I can’t remember when, but one time [at a giveaway], there were 50-60 kids and before the end of the event, they were taking the supplies out. They were so excited.”
Stewart is seventh in the point standings and has three victories — Las Vegas, Fontana and the summer race at Daytona — as he takes his No. 14 Mobil/Office Depot Chevrolet into Indianapolis for the Brickyard 400 on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He raced at IMS early in his career when he ran Indy cars, driving in the Indianapolis 500 five times and finishing fifth in 1997.
As a driver-owner for his Stewart-Haas racing team, he has to deal with the pressure of repeating as Cup champion as well as finding sponsorships.
And with the U.S. Army not renewing its sponsorship for Ryan Newman’s No. 39 car, Stewart has to scramble to find a replacement.
“It’s definitely still a setback, but we’re pushing forward to get [another deal] done,” Stewart said. “We have been able to bring in Aspen Dental and Quicken Loans, and those two companies had not been part of NASCAR in the past. We’re not giving up hope and throwing in the towel.”
But Stewart is confident he’ll be able to field a three-car team in 2013 with Danica Patrick set to race a full Cup schedule.
Patrick is running 10 more Cup races this season for Stewart-Haas and is full-time in the Nationwide Series. He said he’s still sticking to that plan — even without the Army’s backing of Stewart’s No. 2 driver.
The week has been frenetic for Stewart. He went back home to Columbus (about 50 miles from Indianapolis), made several appearances, fulfilled numerous media requests and will run his Sprint cars at Eldora Speedway — which he owns — in New Weston, Ohio, on Saturday night.
“I’ve never forgotten where I’m from,” he said. “That’s the way I’ve always been.
“It’s kind of like being at Charlotte. Everybody thinks that being at Charlotte is a relaxing week because you’re at home. For some reason, when you go home, everybody thinks that you need to do more work. It makes for a long week, but it’s a fun week at the same time because you’re at home.”
This weekend also marks the first Nationwide race at IMS. Previously during Brickyard weekend, the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series ran at Lucas Oil Raceway, about five miles from IMS.
Nationwide will run the Indiana 250 on Saturday; the trucks are idle.
“I have that same level of sadness of losing the truck race and Nationwide race,” Stewart said. “That’s one of the things that I’ve liked about the weekend — [watching a race] at a track that I got my roots at. I know when we ran Sprint cars, we always looked forward to watching the trucks and the Nationwide cars.”