Following the championship race in Homestead, Tony Stewart went to Victory Lane to congratulate Jimmy Johnson. Johnson’s helmet was specially made with the No. 7 on it to honor Ricky Hendrick, son of team owner Rick Hendrick.
Johnson promised the helmet to Tony as he had promised before the race. Knowing how much the helmet meant to Johnson, he still gave it to Stewart out of respect toward Tony.
Kevin Harvick, a teammate of Tony Stewart’s, was very critical of NASCAR and track promoters for not giving Stewart the proper accolades during his final season as a Cup driver. Harvick was comparing this season to last year when Jeff Gordon was in his final season.
Maybe NASCAR was looking at a comparison of the two drivers. Jeff Gordon was the clean-cut all-American boy, while Stewart is old school and comes with baggage. The tragedy involving Kevin Ward Jr., will haunt Smoke forever. Every day, he has to live with the fact his vehicle struck and killed another human. His devastating leg injury in mid-2013 also seemed to affect him as he’s visited Victory Lane only once and collected just eight top-5 finishes in nearly 100 starts.
Stewart’s impact and accomplishments make him not just a NASCAR Hall of Famer but also a once-in-a-generation type of driver. He had the talent to win the Indy 500, capturing the open-wheel IRL title before winning a NASCAR championship in multiple formats.
Stewart was always critical of journalists for putting the microphone in his face, knowing he was upset and could be relied on to make outrageous statements. He often criticized NASCAR policies which cost him thousands of dollars, then later on, NASCAR would implement the suggestions Stewart made, but without apologizing to him.
After winning one of his three championships, Stewart made his way to the podium to make his victory speech. He reached in the podium and took out a camera and going down to the floor, he made his way to the front of the press section. He then snapped pictures of them, mocking the way they treated him.
Stewart has career totals of 49 wins, 15 poles, 187 top-five finishes, 308 top-10s and 12,815 laps led in 617 Sprint Cup races. His most recent Sprint Cup win came June 26 at Sonoma Raceway. His last Sprint Cup pole came April 5, 2014 at Texas Motor Speedway. Stewart missed the final 15 races of the 2013 season, three races in 2014 and the first eight races in 2016.
Stewart won Sprint Cup titles in 2002 and 2005 and, with the 2011 crown, became the first driver-owner to win a Sprint Cup championship since Alan Kulwicki in 1992.