News & Media

Stewart, in busiest week, a promoter 'til the end

June 07, 2011, Joe Menzer,

Want some bruising with your cruising? Don't count out Prelude to the Dream

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, answered this week's six questions as he prepared to host several NASCAR competitors for the seventh annual Prelude to the Dream at his own Eldora Speedway dirt track Wednesday.

1. In light of what has happened in NASCAR lately, do you think there will be any fights during or after this Prelude?

"It's hard to have the kind of relationship we have when we've been rivals to a certain degree, but we've always respected each other and it's nice to have situations like this where we can work together."


Stewart (laughing): We thought about putting up a ring for maybe in between the heat races. We could maybe have a pay-per-view boxing/racing event. We'll have to look at that for next year.

2. Can you talk a little about why you decided the proceeds from the Prelude to the Dream will go to four children's hospitals (Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Children's Medical Center of Dallas, Levine Children's Hospital in Charlotte, N.C., and St. Louis Children's Hospital)?

Stewart: The thing about children is what you see with them is what you get. They have such honest emotions. I've seen kids who have terminal illnesses have some of the best attitudes of anyone I've ever met. I've seen these kids on what were considered one of their best days, and it's what the rest of us would consider a terrible day. Yet they're smiling and telling us to move forward and not let things bother us. Children like that don't realize what an inspiration they are to us adults.

You go and see these kids who are literally fighting for their lives, and it has a way of putting our own lives in perspective. The things that we think are so bad suddenly don't seem so bad. I'm so happy that we can try to help them out like this.

3. You've teamed with car owner Rick Hendrick now not only in a technical partnership at Stewart-Haas Racing but also in helping raise funds for the children's hospitals that will benefit from the Prelude event. Didn't you nearly drive full time for Hendrick Motorsports instead of Joe Gibbs Racing when your Sprint Cup career started off?

Stewart: In the fall of 1996, I got a call and Rick's organization offered me the 25 car. At the time I had only run eight Nationwide races, so I didn't feel like I had earned the right and wasn't sure I was ready to make that jump to the Cup Series.

I've always respected him and Rick's been great to me since I started [in 1999]. It's hard to have the kind of relationship we have when we've been rivals to a certain degree, but we've always respected each other and it's nice to have situations like this where we can work together.

4. With how everything has worked out since then, do you believe that was the right decision to turn Hendrick down for that ride in 1996?

Stewart: Hindsight being 20/20, I felt like we made the right decision. I know I would have had the best of everything if I had gone there -- but I wasn't sure that I was ready for the kind of equipment I was given. Now we're getting to work with him directly through our partnership at Stewart-Haas, so it's kind of come full circle.

5. Do you think you could have succeeded had you taken that Hendrick ride?

Stewart: The way I looked it, we were climbing up the ladder and we had one step left. We listened to our gut instinct. There was no doubt it was the perfect opportunity, but the timing of it was not right. I just did not feel like I was ready. I definitely wanted to make sure that when I made that last step, I was ready for it.

6. With all the big races you compete in every year, where does the Prelude you put on and run in rank?

Stewart: This is probably one of the biggest weeks of my year, with the Prelude. It takes so much work. I go the last three days [before the race is run] and then I don't leave the facility for three days. It still amazes me how much effort and work it takes to put on a one-day race.

You look at big NASCAR facilities and see that they put on two races a year, and you think, 'Well, this has got to be easy for them to do.' You realize very quickly that it takes more than a little time and effort to make these events happen. It takes a lot.