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Waiting for the Smoke to clear


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He is “Our Tony,” and I have to admit, I’m worried.

Sure, it’s not even halfway into a NASCAR season, so we have to be patient. But something seems amiss.

Stewart has four top 10 finishes in nine races, and he is 15th overall in the points standings. He has lots of time to get into the winner’s circle and make the Chase.

That’s pretty good for a guy who had his lower right leg mangled in a sprint car crash last August.

Even so, those thoughts ... thoughts that weren’t present a year ago when he was “slumping” early in the season ... begin to fill your head.

Are his injuries too much to overcome?

I get a blister on my finger these days, and it takes three weeks to heal.

Stewart had three surgeries, and he is still limping. We know he’s got to be hurting when he sits in that racecar.

At age 42, is Stewart moving into more of an owner’s role?

Does he still have the fire inside? He hasn’t thrown a helmet at anyone lately.

Common sense tells us not to worry.

Did we worry about Dale Earnhardt, Jr. when he went 2009 without winning, and 2010, and 2011? The guy pitched an 0 for 36 last season and won more money ($7,150,034) than ever before. He was a top 10 machine.

Junior, who won at Daytona this year, is doing pretty well these days.

Slumps, in terms of wins, can happen. Unless you are Tony Stewart.

Stewart has won at least one race for 15 consecutive seasons, which puts him in a category with Dale Earnhardt and Darren Waltrip. If he makes that 16 this season, he joins Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace.

David Pearson won races 17 years in a row and The King, Richard Petty, won at least one race 18 years in a row.

It seemed like Stewart would be a good bet to someday hold that record. Above all, he is a winner.

Stewart, who has 28 more Sprint Cup wins than Earnhardt, Jr., continues to earn lots of money. But it’s the win part of the equation that seems off right now.

It’s pretty obvious Our Tony would rather take a sharp stick to the eye than to finish second week after week after week.

What makes Stewart a monster, the best in his craft, is that it’s all about winning.

At the present, he is third on his own team in that category. Kevin Harvick, who is 38, has two wins this season. Kurt Busch, who is 35, has won once.

Smoke has zippo, the same as the fourth member of his team, Danica Patrick. That’s got to hurt more than his leg.

It hurts us, too, because when Stewart wins, Columbus celebrates.

For years, the confetti always has been at the ready, because anytime Stewart pulled on the track, from any position, he was a threat to win.

With everything he is fighting right now, winning is more of a challenge than ever.

Can he do it? Sure. We know he will. I guess that’s why it is silly to worry.

It’s just my nature, I guess.

Maybe it’s because I know the consecutive year win streak is going to look good when Columbus builds that Tony Stewart Racing Museum with the adjoining 1,200-seat events center.

Oh, construction hasn’t been scheduled yet? I’m worried about that, too.

Just silly, I guess.

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at jheater@therepublic.com or 379-5632.

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