10 Jul Profile of Race Car Driver Tony Stewart
Born in 1971 in Columbus, Indiana, Tony Stewart grew up racing go-karts. He was recognized as being a talented racer at a young age, and his talents culminated in his first-place World Karting Association finish at sixteen years old. After his championship, Stewart moved to the United Midget Racing Association where he competed until 1991. Moving to the United States Auto Club circuit that year, he would go on to win rookie of the year honors. After a fifth-place finish in 1993, he was crowned the 1994 National Midget series champion. The following year, Stewart would become the first driver to win all three of the USAC’s main divisions.
In a preview to his future field of competition, Stewart ran a handful of races in NASCAR’s Busch and Craftsman Truck series that marked his debut in professional stock car racing. Though he found minimal success in these early outings, they helped fuel his desire to become a stock car racer.
Despite a string of races where he failed to finish, Stewart won the 1997 Indy Racing League championship in just his second season of top-class open wheel racing. The following year, Stewart would endure one of the most intense racing seasons in history by racing a full schedule in IRL and twenty-two races in the Busch series. Despite his prolific racing schedule, he still managed to finish third in IRL and notched five top-five finishing in the Busch series.
Stewart’s performance and passion impressed his team owner, Joe Gibbs. Gibbs hired Stewart to run a full series of Winston Cup races the following year, which led to Stewart’s departure from full-time IRL racing. His team owner’s confidence was swiftly rewarded; Stewart finished the season with a bevy of top-five performances, a rookie record of three victories at Richmond, Phoenix and Homestead, and a rookie record fourth-place finish in the final point standing. Many regard Stewart’s season as the best rookie season in NASCAR history.
Stewart’s 2002 season started poorly, and he was in seventh place at the season’s midpoint. However, Stewart went on a hot streak during the last third of the season and earned enough points to win his first NASCAR Winston Cup championship, defeating Mark Martin by a narrow margin.
Three years later, Stewart had his best performance in the newly renamed Nextel Cup series, and would go on to become NASCAR’s youngest driver to win multiple championships. He would earn another championship in the 2011 season, winning a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards by winning the final race of the season. The achievement marked what many consider to be the most exciting conclusion to a NASCAR season.
Due to his passion and championships in multiple racing circuits, Tony Stewart has perhaps the most impressive racecar driver profile in recent years. At only forty-one years old, Stewart has time left to challenge the all-time leaders for NASCAR championship trophies.