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Now that Tony Stewart, egads, suffered an injury driving one of those death-trap winged sprint cars, I’m sure he will give up all driving duties except his NASCAR responsibilities.
He will never utter another discouraging word.
He will join 24 Hour Fitness.
He will get married and settle down.
What’s the popular movie line? “He may be mean, but he’s ours.”
Greg Zipadelli, whose title is competition director for Stewart-Haas Racing but who used to be Stewart’s crew chief, was walking the path of political righteousness on Wednesday as he talked about Smoke’s future. “Zippy,” as he is known in the racing world, said the powers-that-be would have discussions with the Columbus native about doing what’s best for Stewart-Haas Racing and its partners.
The inference is that the real power-that-be, Stewart, will sit at the head of a table and everyone who works for him will beg him to please stop running around the country, doing flips in Soap Box Derby cars that are powered by 360-cubic-inch engines.
You see, when Stewart snapped his leg in two places on Monday in Iowa, it meant that the No. 14 car (the NASCAR version that pays the bills) will have a big, old hole in its heart, or the driver’s seat. All those stickers promoting all those products will still be going around the track on No. 14, but that car simply isn’t going to be as fast.
It’s hard to get advertising time from 31st place.
Money drives this thrill ride, and sponsor dollars are hard to find, even for a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion who is the very best at getting people to root for him or against him.
I’m sure those discussions will get to the point where Stewart will be told to either drop those weeknight junkets to half-mile dirt ovals or face the possibility of needing for find new sponsors.
Those who know him probably can imagine the answer.
“Aw shucks, you’re right. I need to cut back. Now somebody hand me a map for Oklahoma, I have to get to the Beaver County Fairgrounds.”
At 42, Stewart’s biological clock is ticking. He only has so many days left where he can do his favorite thing, which is to race. If NASCAR had races seven days a week, he wouldn’t have to plane, train and automobile to such distant points. Alas, it doesn’t, and he does.
He does his hobby racing in front of people who might never have the money to attend a live NASCAR race or have the chance to get up close and personal with one of stock car racing’s greatest drivers. Hopefully, his sponsors understand they are paying to be associated with a driver who is truly one of a kind. Those in Stewart’s camp can’t want him to turn into Milquetoast Tony. This is a guy whose favorite movie is “Smokey and the Bandit.”
Let’s face it, he’s more “Bandit” than Burt Reynolds. Don’t force him to be someone else because we think it is safer.
I remember standing with a quarter horse owner once at a track in Idaho. He was being asked about the dangers of racing and how hard it can be on the animals.
“I retired one of my favorite horses to a pasture behind my house because I started to worry about how dangerous racing could be,” the man said. “A week later, he stepped in a hole, snapped his leg and died.”
Don’t put Stewart out to pasture.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.
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