Loading…
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Current Weather
Loading Current Weather....
Published: 6/17/2007

No doubt Tony Stewart is his dad's son

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Tony Stewart s father, Nelson, has been with him every step of the way, from his go-cart racing days to being a Nextel Cup star.
Tony Stewart s father, Nelson, has been with him every step of the way, from his go-cart racing days to being a Nextel Cup star.
Enlarge
Tony Stewart waits to practice at Michigan International
Speedway for today s Citizens Bank 400. Tony Stewart waits to practice at Michigan International Speedway for today s Citizens Bank 400.
Enlarge

BROOKLYN, Mich. - A bewildered Tony Stewart stood at the top of his driveway and watched a total stranger drive off with his prized racing go-kart.

Stewart's parents had left at nine that morning, and his dad's parting words were that he wanted to see the yard mowed by the time they returned. Later that day, young Tony was playing baseball in the backyard with a half dozen friends when mom and dad came home, and the grass had not been cut.

"We'd been home about a half hour when the phone rang and a guy asked if I knew anyone who had a go-kart for sale, and I said now Tony's was. A short time later, he had it loaded in the back of his truck and was pulling out of the driveway," Nelson Stewart said. "Tony just stood there, with this surprised look on his face."

The two-time Nextel Cup champion, who was 12 or 13 years old at the time, got to drive a friend's go-kart in that weekend's race and soon had another ride all his own. His dad laments the fact he probably gave in too soon and missed out on a good life lesson in that case. But Nelson Stewart also acknowledges that somewhere along the way, his son got the message about fulfilling his responsibilities.

"That should have taught him a lesson, but I don't think he learned anything from it, because I didn't wait long enough," Nelson Stewart said. "I should have waited a month. But he turned out all right, and I guess along the way he did learn how to race pretty darned good."

The elder Stewart, who now works in his son's extensive racing empire, joked that their roles have reversed over the past two decades or so.

"Now, if he tells me to mow the grass, I go out and mow the grass," Nelson Stewart said.

Actually, the father-son racing relationship does not involve much yard work any longer. Nelson recently supervised the construction of a racing shop in their hometown of Columbus, Ind., and is still one of his son's closest confidantes and advisers.

"He never let me settle for second," said Tony Stewart, who will race today, on Father's Day, in the Citizens Bank 400 at Michigan International Speedway. "He didn't like it when we ran second, and he knew that I didn't like it when we ran second. If he saw that I wasn't giving 100 percent, then he was on me pretty hard about it. He pushed me to be better."

And Tony did nothing but get better. He gave up back-yard baseball and became all racer.

Bob Franke, owner of the Dairy Queen in Columbus for the past 40 years, watched the father mold the son into one of the best at precision high-speed flight around a race track.

"Tony and Nelson and the whole family would come in every Saturday night after the go-kart races at the 4-H fairgrounds, and you could tell early on that Nelson was really pushing him. He wanted to see Tony do his best, and he wanted to see him win," Franke said.

Franke started sponsoring Stewart's racing and had a good vantage point to watch his early success lead to more challenges and greater accomplishments.

"In the early years, Nelson was pretty hard on Tony, but if you look at where Tony is today, that has probably grown out of that toughness."

Stewart is still a regular customer at the Dairy Queen, where Franke has used an entire wall to chronicle Stewart's racing accomplishments.

"I can't say enough about Tony and Nelson and that relationship that's always been there," Franke said. "They've had their spats along the way, like any dad and his son, but that is because they're so much alike. If Tony's got something on his mind, he'll just tell you, and Nelson's the exact same way."

Tony's parents are divorced, and his mom remarried, but she is also involved in his racing team and his charitable foundation. Pam Boas said the strong racing link between father and son was apparent even when Tony was a toddler.

"It started very, very early," she said. "Tony would dump out the magazines, sort out the ones with cars on them to look at, and never bother any of mine. He'd lay his matchbox cars out on a braided oval rug and use it as a race track."

When Stewart was 6, his dad had him in the backyard on a small kart.

"They made a mess of the yard, so we had to get him out of there. Nelson put him on something bigger, and it just grew from there. Soon, racing became their entire focus," Stewart's mom said.

Nelson said he first saw the potential for his son to really go somewhere in racing when Tony was fooling around in the shop.

"He was riding a three-wheeler in the garage one day, and tipping it up on two wheels and riding around in a circle over and over, and he never dumped that thing over doing it," Stewart's dad said.

"I thought that if he had that sense of balance, and that feel in his butt, then he could possibly be a race car driver. He amazed me because he did it one way, then he turned it around and did it the other way. And he wasn't very darned old."

Stewart likely didn't even know his father was paying attention to his stunts, but he got the message that if racing was what you chose to do, then you had better do it with all you had.

"He never pressured me to be the best race car driver in the world, but he did want me to be the best race car driver that I could be," said Stewart. "He never compared me to anybody else. He expected that what I could do was what I could do. He never said that because this guy over here could do something, that I should be able to do it too. He pushed me hard, but he was fair about it. That's probably why you see so much fire in me today, because he always wanted me to be the best that I could be."

Along the way to the pinnacle of his sport, Stewart has earned the reputation for being stock car racing's straightest shooter. He is blunt, unfiltered, brutally honest, and sometimes caustic and cantankerous. The corner of Nelson Stewart's mouth rises with the hint of that ornery smile when the origin of Tony's unique personality comes to question.

"I think I'll have to take the credit, or the blame, for that one," Nelson said. "They say the apple never falls too far from the tree - well, I think this one just dropped straight down. People have told me that Tony is a lot like me, and I can't argue that."

Stewart has the track record, so to speak, to uphold that family tradition. Like father, like son, and sometimes that means being painfully direct and abrupt. Stewart's mom has had the catbird's seat to watch the two men flourish in the success they have partnered to create.

"They traveled a lot for racing and spent a lot of time together, and it was so obvious a long time ago that Tony shared his dad's passion for racing, and his dad's way of standing up for what he thought was right," she said.

"Nelson was always more vocal than most people, and he could get real adamant about things. Tony is exactly the same way, and I hope he never changes being so honest about what is in his heart. He cares, and he speaks up about things that he feels like they should be. He's really quite a bit like his dad."

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.construction of a racing shop in their hometown of Columbus, Ind., and is still one of his son's closest confidantes and advisers.

"He never let me settle for second," said Tony Stewart, who will race today, on Father's Day, in the Citizens Bank 400 at Michigan International Speedway. "He didn't like it when we ran second, and he knew that I didn't like it when we ran second. If he saw that I wasn't giving 100 percent, then he was on me pretty hard about it. He pushed me to be better."

And Tony did nothing but get better. Soon he gave up the back-yard baseball and became all racer.

Bob Franke, owner of the Dairy Queen in Columbus for the past 40 years, watched the father mold the son into one of the best at precision high-speed flight around a race track.

"Tony and Nelson and the whole family would come in every Saturday night after the go-kart races at the 4-H fairgrounds, and you could tell early on that Nelson was really pushing him. He wanted to see Tony do his best, and he wanted to see him win," Franke said.

Franke started sponsoring Stewart's racing and had a good vantage point to watch his early success lead to more challenges and greater accomplishments.

"In the early years, Nelson was pretty hard on Tony, but if you look at where Tony is today, that has probably grown out of that toughness."

Stewart is still a regular customer at the Dairy Queen, where Franke has used an entire wall to chronicle Stewart's racing accomplishments.

"I can't say enough about Tony and Nelson and that relationship that's always been there," Franke said. "They've had their spats along the way, like any dad and his son, but that is because they're so much alike. If Tony's got something on his mind, he'll just tell you, and Nelson's the exact same way."

Tony's parents are divorced, and his mom remarried, but she is also involved in his racing team and his charitable foundation. Pam Boas said the strong racing link between father and son was apparent even when Tony was a toddler.

"It started very, very early," she said. "Tony would dump out the magazines, sort out the ones with cars on them to look at, and never bother any of mine. He'd lay his matchbox cars out on a braided oval rug and use it as a race track."

When Stewart was 6, his dad had him in the backyard on a small kart.

"They made a mess of the yard, so we had to get him out of there. Nelson put him on something bigger, and it just grew from there. Soon, racing became their entire focus," Stewart's mom said.

Nelson said he first saw the potential for his son to really go somewhere in racing when Tony was fooling around in the shop.

"He was riding a three-wheeler in the garage one day, and tipping it up on two wheels and riding around in a circle over and over, and he never dumped that thing over doing it," Stewart's dad said.

"I thought that if he had that sense of balance, and that feel in his butt, then he could possibly be a race car driver. He amazed me because he did it one way, then he turned it around and did it the other way. And he wasn't very darned old."

Stewart likely didn't even know his father was paying attention to his stunts, but he got the message that if racing was what you chose to do, then you had better do it with all you had.

"He never pressured me to be the best race car driver in the world, but he did want me to be the best race car driver that I could be," said Stewart. "He never compared me to anybody else. He expected that what I could do was what I could do. He never said that because this guy over here could do something, that I should be able to do it too. He pushed me hard, but he was fair about it. That's probably why you see so much fire in me today, because he always wanted me to be the best that I could be."

Along the way to the pinnacle of his sport, Stewart has earned the reputation for being stock car racing's straightest shooter. He is blunt, unfiltered, brutally honest, and sometimes caustic and cantankerous. The corner of Nelson Stewart's mouth rises with the hint of that ornery smile when the origin of Tony's unique personality comes to question.

"I think I'll have to take the credit, or the blame, for that one," Nelson said. "They say the apple never falls too far from the tree - well, I think this one just dropped straight down. People have told me that Tony is a lot like me, and I can't argue that."

Stewart has the track record, so to speak, to uphold that family tradition. Like father, like son, and sometimes that means being painfully direct and abrupt. Stewart's mom has had the catbird's seat to watch the two men flourish in the success they have partnered to create.

"They traveled a lot for racing and spent a lot of time together, and it was so obvious a long time ago that Tony shared his dad's passion for racing, and his dad's way of standing up for what he thought was right," she said.

"Nelson was always more vocal than most people, and he could get real adamant about things. Tony is exactly the same way, and I hope he never changes being so honest about what is in his heart. He cares, and he speaks up about things that he feels like they should be. He's really quite a bit like his dad."

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. If a comment violates these standards or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report abuse. To post comments, you must be a Facebook member. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.

Points of Interest









Poll