Braintree, MA — Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart made a rare Go-Karting appearance at F1 Boston’s indoor facility on Thursday afternoon. A group of New Hampshire Motor Speedway’s media contingent tested their driving skills against Stewart. “It’s fun to have the media here today and have an opportunity to get them out there with us and get them a chance to do something different,” said Stewart. “I can promise you the media did better driving the Go-Karts than I would do trying to conduct interviews and write articles, so it was pretty impressive. It’s fun to watch the media get the chance to go out and have a good time with us today.”
Stewart was strong all day in his #14 kart. The best competition to Stewart was one of his own drivers, Jessica Zemken, who races the #14 Sprint Car for Tony Stewart Racing. “She actually ran a faster lap than me today,” said Stewart. “There’s no shame in that. That’s why we got involved with her racing program to begin with because we knew she could get the job done. The hard part is just know that the rest of the day I’m doing to have to hear about how much faster she was than me so it will make my day a lot longer now.”
Stewart has been helping Zemken with her racing career. “We’ve been helping her out for a couple of years now with her Sprint Car program and we learned about her a long time ago,” said Stewart. “We actually met at the Chili Bowl probably six years ago in Oklahoma. Since then I’ve been watching her career and heard about some races where our teams that run the full-time World of Outlaws Series were at the same race she was at and heard about how good a job she did and realized that she was doing it on less than a shoestring budget even so to be able to get involved with her and help her out and help get her some cars and motors to help her it’s been fun to watch her go from just running regionally to starting to travel a little bit with different series and getting better as she goes.”
Tony Stewart Racing has been on a hot streak lately, winning four consecutive World of Outlaws races. “Yea it’s definitely exciting,” said Stewart. “Obviously the (Knoxville) Nationals is the biggest race of our year with those Sprint Cars and Donny (Schatz) did another great job and Steve (Kinser) going and winning back to back the next week and Donny winning on Tuesday here. It’s been a good month for Tony Stewart Racing and really proud of our guys. All of our teams have been running good – Levi Jones and Bryan Clauson have been running good on the our USAC side and Jessica is running good with her cars so it’s just more pressure for Ryan (Newman) and I to get caught up to what those guys are doing cause they’re holding up their end. Ryan and I just got to pick up our pace a little bit.”
In 1995, Stewart competed in over 60 races to capture the USAC Triple Crown (Silver Crown, Sprint Car, and Midget). “It’s fun to look back now and realize it was a hectic schedule and there were conflicts in dates between a couple of the divisions and we missed a couple of races,” said Stewart. “It’s a lot of fun to think about all the races that we went to and nights that we had to run 2 or more cars in the same evening to get lucky enough to accomplish what we did. It seems like it was yesterday, but it’s been 16 years ago now. It was a long time ago but that’s probably one year of my life that I’ll never forget. It was just so many things had to go right to accomplish that goal and there’s not been very many guys that have done it since.”
On June 14, Stewart got the chance to drive a McLaren-Mercedes Formula 1 car at Watkins Glen International while Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton drove one of Stewart’s Sprint Cup cars. The Mobil 1 Seat Swap featured both cars on the long course with Stewart in a different car and layout than he normally runs at The Glen. “We only got a chance to run about 4 laps,” said Stewart. “But those 4 laps lasted about 6 and a half minutes and I guarantee I’ve talked about it probably 5 hours since then, if not more. It was cool to look at the different types of cars in my career that I’ve got the chance to drive. Its ranged from a Monster Truck one night to Go Karts all the way through the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide and Trucks to IndyCars and getting the chance to do the Seat Swap at Watkins Glen and Lewis Hamilton and that F1 car. It was the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Stewart is currently 10th in the points, the last driver locked into the Chase. Without a win to help secure a wildcard position, Stewart believes his team does not need a victory in the next 3 races. “Do I feel like that Richmond or Atlanta is a place that we have to have a win at, definitely not,” said Stewart. “I still feel like our best shot is to win it on our merit of our points and not have to try to put together that one day as much as we still want to be good for that 26 weeks.” … “There’s no point in changing what got us here. I think guys that try to make something happen and try to win a race to lock themselves in The Chase are putting themselves in a big opportunity to make a big mistake. I think we are going to stick to our guns and stay the course.”
On September 10, the final race before The Chase will be held at Richmond International Raceway. Stewart’s team will be among those sporting a patriotic paint scheme in observance of the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks. “The cool thing that NASCAR has always been very supportive of our communities and realizing that the race fans are what make this sport so popular,” said Stewart. “Anytime anything has happened in our country, whether it’s been earthquakes or floods or fires. NASCAR is about family and that’s something that the France family has instilled in all of us. I think a lot of major sports are that way but I really feel like that racing and especially NASCAR has been very proactive in giving back to the communities. To run the tribute car at Richmond is something I’m really proud of. I’m proud that we have a company like Office Depot that wants to be a part of something like that and they do give a lot to the communities also.”
Saturday night was scheduled to be the annual Boston Louie Memorial race at Seekonk Speedway, but Hurricane Irene has postponed the race to September 10. “He was a great man obviously,” said Stewart. “He was a great car owner in the Northeast obviously. He’s got 2 great sons (NEMA champions Bobby and Mike) that have made big racing names for themselves. Boston was one of those guys that when he spoke everybody in the crowd listened and listened to what he had to say. You just knew he was an honest good man. We all hated losing him. Every time that I got the honor to drive that 29 car that’s something that really meant a lot to me and hopefully I did him proud the night I drove it.” Stewart piloted the Seymour #29 on at least on occassion – in a PRA Big Car race on December 13, 2006 at the old USA Int’l Speedway in Lakeland, FL.
Stewart’s next visit to New England will be for the second race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, September 25.
Sources: Nicholas Teto