THE first time I saw Tony Stewart, he was driving for Steve Chrisman of Edinburgh. Tony’s debut was not being made at a bullring like Bloomington Speedway or Lincoln Park Speedway, but it was being made on the high banks of Salem Speedway.
Although Tony narrowly missed earning a spot in the feature, it was clear that he had the talent necessary to be a star. While the talent was clearly there, the dedication that would be necessary to carry him to the top was yet to be proven.
Anyone who had been paying attention had been told that he was going to be a racecar driver. While this no doubt frustrated countless teachers, it demonstrated another aspect of Tony’s character — honesty. Tony’s father, Nelson Stewart insisted on it, and it remains with him today.
The recent incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York has Tony’s detractors started anew with charges that he is a murderer. First of all, if Tony had intentionally struck Kevin Ward Jr., he would have said so. However, the more certain proof of Tony’s innocence is his kind nature.
Those who know Tony well know of the times that he has rescued stray animals, arranged for their veterinary care and returned them to their owners. Another example of his kind nature involved the huge sums spent to keep deer from becoming entangled in the fence that surrounds his farm.
Tony’s charitable foundation spends millions of dollars every year in support of “at risk” children and animals. In addition, he makes sizable contributions in support of injured drivers and their families. Tony never seeks recognition for his acts of charity.
Cooler heads will almost certainly prevail. However, it is a shame that Tony must endure ignorant comments from everyone with the price of ticket. It is important that Tony’s Columbus fans avoid being caught up in criticism of a Tony Stewart who doesn’t exist.
Each August, sprint-car racers and their fans assemble at the Marion County (Iowa) Fairgrounds for four nights or sprint-car racing.
All of this takes place in Knoxville, Iowa, a town the size of Edinburgh. The entire community is absorbed by the Knoxville Nationals. Bake sales, food vendors, T-shirt trailers and various other commercial ventures line the streets that surround the fairgrounds. The following are the highlights of the 2014 Knoxville Nationals:
Aug. 6 preliminary: The Wednesday night program was rained out and rescheduled for the morning of Aug. 9. This gave the fans a good opportunity to shop for T-shirts and other souvenirs.
Aug. 7 preliminary: A total of 52 drivers signed in to make an attempt to transfer to the Saturday night feature. Paul McMahan was followed by Kerry Madsen, Terry McCarl, Brian Brown and Sheldon Haudenschild.
The heat races went to Bill Balog, Jon Agan, Jack Dover, Ian Madsen and Kevin Swindell.
Hooligan winners were Dustin Selvage (C) and Cody Darrah (B).
Brian Brown of Grain Valley, Missouri, won the preliminary feature, followed by Sam Hafertepe Jr., Madsen, McCarl and Bryan Clauson finished up front in the preliminary feature.
Aug. 8 preliminary: A total of 53 drivers qualified for Friday night’s preliminary racing. Craig Dollansky set quick time, followed by Donny Schatz, Bronson Maeschen, Shane Stewart and Sammy Swindell.
Wayne Johnson, Schatz, Greg Wilson, Jac Haudenschild and Dave Heskin won the heats.
Maeschen won the “C” hooligan while Tim Kaeding prevailed in the “B” hooligan.
Late in the race, Shane Stewart passed Kraig Kinser to take the lead that he would hold to the checkered flags. Mark Dobmeier, Schatz and David Gravel rounded out the top five.
Aug. 9 Morning preliminary: The heat races were won by Dover, Jac Haudenschild, Tony Bruce Jr., Steve Kinser and Brandon Wimmer.
Page Polyek won the Saturday morning hooligan.
Danny Lasoski won the Saturday morning feature trailed by Dover, Jac Haudenschild, Kinser and Seth Brahmer.
Aug. 9 Evening Championship: The Knoxville Nationals Championship program is unique in motorsports in that any driver whose car has survived the preliminaries
is welcome to run in the championship program. They will schedule as many hooligans as necessary to accommodate everyone.
All of this came down to a shootout between Brian Brown and Tony Stewart Racing’s Donny Schatz. Brown was in search of his first nationals title, and Schatz was after No. 8 and four in a row.
Schatz took the lead at the drop of the green and led the first 43 laps. Brown took the lead for Lap 44. However, Schatz took the lead back on Lap 45 and held off Brown the rest of the way to the checkered flags.
Local driver victorious
Matt Arrington of Columbus drove the Terry Minor- owned TQ midget to a flag-to-flag victory at Montpelier Motor Speedway.
Tim McKinney writes a weekly racing column for The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5632.