In 1999, Tony Stewart put up incredible numbers for a rookie at NASCAR’s highest level. “Smoke” finished the season with 21 top 10s, 12 top fives and three wins that all came inside of the last 10 weeks of the season.
That first win came in the fall at Richmond Raceway. Stewart started the night on the outside pole and for a good part of the night battled Jeff Gordon, who at one point during the race radioed his crew and said “look at him go” after Stewart drove around him.
At the end of the night it was Stewart’s teammate Bobby Labonte who would try to lead the charge to keep the rookie out of Victory Lane but it wasn’t enough. Stewart went on to win the 1999 Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400 at Richmond Raceway, the first of 49 Hall of Fame quality career wins.
Stewart will be inducted into the 2020 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday, January 31, 2020. Other inductees include Labonte, his former car owner Joe Gibbs, driver Buddy Baker and crew chief Waddell Wilson.