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It's a crisp night at the Phoenix International Raceway, and Stewart's No.
20 Home Depot Toyota — "Rides like a soapy dishrag! He stays in resorts and stuff like that on race weekend.
My life is on that cell phone, so I start my life over tomorrow." It's on Sunday night, however, when Stewart's life will change irrevocably.
But the driver nicknamed "Smoke" simply calls it "halftime." "The great thing is I'm not really going anywhere," said Stewart, who co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing with Gene Haas. 14 car), but for me it's not going to be that big of a change.
As he seethes, a cloud of greasy black smoke from Johnson's celebratory rubber burn wafts over the Phoenix infield. He sets down a kitty caddy containing Wylie and Wyatt, his mewling Tonkinese cats. We need different flavors." Not everyone enjoys Stewart's act, however. But 2008 has been a tough season — a "nightmare," he calls it — riddled with crashes, mechanical failures and bad-luck endings.
Mike Arning, Stewart's PR rep, fixer and constant aide-de-camp, walks briskly beside his client, hoping to get Stewart out of town without a TV camera catching him saying something he'll regret. "Tony will at times do or say things that make our skin crawl," says Jim Hunter, a NASCAR vice president who has been with the sport for 40 years. Stewart used to travel with a monkey named Mojo, but when Mojo grew into adolescence — "We realized he was exactly the wrong breed to have as a pet" — Stewart donated him to the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky. "Because I think it sucked."his is Tony Stewart's 13th year in NASCAR, and at 37 he remains the most magnetic driver in the sport, even if he isn't always the most successful. Over the years, he has thrown his gloves at Kenny Irwin, had a shoving match with Robby Gordon, been accused of assaulting a fan in Bristol, Tennessee (but not indicted), knocked the headphones off a track official at a midget race, kicked a reporter's tape recorder (and apologetically replaced it), punched a photographer (and later befriended him), and told off NASCAR officials after they forced him to wear a helmet restraint. You never knew what Junior Johnson was going to say, but if he says it, you know he believes it. Racing blogs burble with invective — "a big orange truckload of crybaby," "fat, arrogant punk-ass," "the biggest douche bag in sports." Before each race, when drivers ride around the track on the backs of pickup trucks and wave at the crowds, none are greeted with so thick a barrage of hate as Stewart. He's not even the top racer on his team this season — he's been surpassed by Kyle Busch, who is currently enjoying a Tiger Woods-like run of dominance in NASCAR.
-- Most people probably think the next chapter in Tony Stewart's life begins on Sunday night, after he races his final laps in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Stewart “didn’t care what [Tara] wanted, and he was very manipulative,” Kirk claims.
Celebrity Deaths That Remain A Mystery “Tony would say to me, ‘I’m a multi-millionaire! He drove off in my daughter’s car and left us there!
I deserve respect, and you should treat me like that! ” Still, despite the fact that Kirk claims to have seen Stewart’s dark side, she doesn’t believe he’s at fault for Ward’s death on Saturday night in New York.
"He's been an asshole at times." Stewart barges into the mobile office at the back of the Home Depot hauler where Greg Zipadelli, the only NASCAR crew chief he's ever had, is waiting to debrief him. As we take off over the Phoenix Speedway, Stewart opens a box containing piping-hot Papa John's pizza and takes a slice. At a time when the .5 billion industry of NASCAR has corporatized and spawned a generation of technically gifted, clean-cut racers like Johnson and Jeff Gordon, Stewart — or "Smoke," as he's called in the back rooms — is a throwback to racing's older era of bootleggers and brawlers. "Tony represents what made this sport," says Hunter. Recently, Stewart dropped a bombshell when he announced he was leaving his employer, the deep-pocketed Joe Gibbs Racing, to start his own team in 2009.
"Good race, Tony," I say, trying to ease the tension. With his prodigious stomach, permanent stubble and more than occasional public outbursts, Stewart reminds the faithful of scruffier icons like Bobby Allison, Junior Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Sr. Haas CNC Racing, a much smaller outfit that has never won a race and whose principal owner, Gene Haas, is serving two years in prison for tax fraud, offered Stewart a free 50 percent stake in its million organization. The new team is called Stewart-Haas Racing, and it's the biggest move of Stewart's career. Stewart will no longer have the well-regarded Zipadelli in his ear or the Home Depot logo decorating everything in his sightline. I got an edge." Of course, the switch raises a delicious question.