Tony Stewart is one of NASCAR’s more colorful personalities. He’s been in and out of trouble with the officials and other drivers more than the media can keep up with. Tony is known for driving the #20 Home Depot Toyota and has won 2 cup championships. He has also won championships in the IRL and IROC series.
Tony’s racing career started back in 1978 when he was only 7 years old. He jumped in behind the wheel of a go-kart and never looked back. His father Nelson has been beside him all the way, cheering him on and not letting him accept anything less than first place. “He never let me settle for second,” said Tony. “He didn’t like it when we ran second, and he knew that I didn’t like it when we ran second. If he saw that I wasn’t giving 100 percent, then he was on me pretty hard about it. He pushed me to be better.” His dad still attends events whenever he can. Tony won his first championship at the age of eight in the 4-cycle rookie junior class then went national and won two more karting championships. In 1989 he graduated to higher-powered open wheel three-quarter midgets. In 1991 he moved to USAC and won rookie of the year and the championship in the National Midget category in 1994.
Young Tony Stewart was just getting his feet wet. The very next year he achieved the “Triple Crown” by winning all three of USAC’s divisions. Between his time in USAC and IRL is when Tony earned the nickname “Smoke”. It seems he blew a few engines during his ’97 IRL championship season. Tony still wasn’t satisfied without trying yet another racing scene and soon entered the Nationwide Series for a few events. He was driving for Joe Gibbs, who was so impressed with his talent, that he signed him to drive a full schedule in 1998 along with his IRL schedule. Tony wasn’t slowed by the double duty. He continued to finish consistently at the front of the field. In 1999, Tony became the first driver to race in both the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. He finished both events in the top-10. Joe Gibbs knew it was time to move Tony from Nationwide to Cup racing and soon after “The Double”, Tony left IRL racing behind to join the big guns in the Sprint Cup arena. With Tony’s reputation for success, no one was surprised when he won Rookie of the Year in 1999 and was runner-up to Jeff Gordon for the Championship.
In 2001, Tony’s competitive nature began to show up along with some controversy with the other drivers. He became no stranger to fines and probation periods by NASCAR. He began to be known for his “He started it, and I finished it” attitude. 2005 was a great year for Tony. He won the race that meant more to him than the championship itself-the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. After his second win of the season, Tony and his crew began climbing the fence between the fans and the track to celebrate his victory. That was a short-lived tradition and he was quoted as saying, “I’m too damn fat to be climbing fences”, then spent $17,000 on exercise equipment.
Tony Stewart is also the owner of Eldora Speedway, a ½ mile dirt track near Rossburg, OH and part owner of two other tracks. He may be rough around the edges, outspoken and one of NASCAR’s bad boys, but Tony has contributed more than 2.1 million dollars to various charities in the United States. His foundation raises funds that primarily benefit children, injured drivers, and animals. When he’s not on the track, Tony still lives in the house where he grew up, in Columbus, IN.