On a plane flight this weekend, I read the excellent Road & Track cover article about the new 2014 Corvette Stingray, as tested by Tony "Smoke" Stewart. He basically couldn't say enough good about the car (the one he's already ordered for himself is black), which is exciting because I can finally really, thoroughly love a Corvette model.
But that's not my point here. My point is Smoke. The article refers to him as America's greatest active racing driver—an accolade I probably agree with. Except for one word: "active." Because he's not, and won't be for some weeks to come, because of a broken leg sustained in a sprint car race last week. (He was apparently discharged from the hospital Sunday night.)
The R&T article says Stewart will race in 115 races this year, only 38 of them NASCAR races. Of course, he won't reach that number now, but that he had that as his plan is amazing. That's a race every three days. (The article does say he races under a different name sometimes, so as not to attract attention, thus proving that his point is racing, not publicity.) But by now being out of the car, Stewart has arguably put one pillar of his empire at risk. I'm referring to Smoke as driver. Smoke as team owner, racetrack owner, and small business owner aren't in danger because he's bedridden for a little while.
So the question is, should he be racing in the more dangerous races, the ones that aren't central to his core business model? I'm sure his sponsors would say "yes." Certainly, that's what's happened to Dale Earnhardt Jr. since his fiery wreck in a Corvette in 2004.
But I say no. Don't make Smoke give up what makes him Smoke. And I don't think he will give it up, personally. I think he'll continue to play the odds ... after all, isn't that what all racers are doing, to some extent?
What do you think? Re. Tony Stewart racing in series and races other than NASCAR. Should he or shouldn't he? Will he or won't he?
Photo from tonystewart.com.