When reading through this year’s induction class for the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, one name that stands out is Tony Stewart.
Stewart’s credentials driving in the United States Auto Club alone being the first to win the midget, sprint car and Silver Crown championships in a single season alone is a worthy enough accomplishment to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Then, add in some of his later accomplishments in winged sprint car racing while having his primary focus being on other racing disciplines.
As Stewart passes the age of 50 while looking at his entire résumé inside and outside the driver’s seat, it is fair to speculate on if Stewart’s business accomplishments in the sport will overshadow his accolades as a driver in the next couple of decades?
This is a bold statement considering we are talking about a driver that has won three NASCAR Cup Series championships and an IndyCar title. His talent in the driver’s seat through multiple disciplines has made him a shoe-in for induction for multiple motorsports’ Halls of fame.
While driving less frequently these days, Stewart is still at a relatively young from the business side and has accomplished more as an owner and entrepreneur in motorsports than many of his contemporaries will in a lifetime.
Much like his driving days, Stewart has sprinkled his influence all over the business side of motorsports. Stewart’s multiple championships as a car owner with USAC and the World of Outlaws are enough to put him in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum. The accomplishments in other areas of the business portion of the sport might be some of the most impressive.
The purchase of Eldora Speedway at the end of 2004 has turned out to be one of the most influential.
Stewart took an already world-famous racing facility and made vast improvements to its infrastructure. Those renovations allowed Stewart and his team to add huge events like the Prelude to the Dream and the return of a NASCAR national series to a dirt track for the first time since 1970.
With all of Stewart’s success, buying the struggling All Star Circuit of Champions seemed like a purchase of passion at the time. Stewart put people in place to help turn that series around to where the tour now boasts a healthy number of touring teams, increased purses and the most stability since Bert and Bridgett Emick directed the series through the 1980s and ’90s.
If you include Stewart’s involvement as a NASCAR team owner, starting the Superstar Racing Experience and his latest foray into NHRA drag racing (where he has already found victory lane as an owner) and things away from the track such as the International Motorsports Industry Show that returned a major motorsports trade show to Indianapolis after the previous entity had departed for another city and the argument for Stewart’s business profile exceeding his driving résumé builds quickly.
It’s difficult to imagine where the sport might be if none of the events mentioned above took place during the past two decades. Young drivers may not have advanced their careers along with tracks and series that may not have experienced the growth we have recently witnessed.
Rarely do we see someone like Stewart inducted into a Hall of Fame possessing the talent he had driving in multiple formulas, but I’m not sure if we have seen a person achieve the same level of success on the business side.
While the past two decades have been amazing to watch, I’m excited to see what the future holds for Stewart and his future motorsports business endeavors.