From the Cutting Room Floor: Lunch With Tony Stewart

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Lunch with the always candid and passionate NASCAR driver Tony Stewart.

Tony Stewart is one of my favorite NASCAR drivers because he will tell it like it is and you’d better be on your toes when you’re around him because you never know what he’s going to dish out.

For example, there was one time at a racetrack when I approached Stewart to ask him a question he didn’t like before he was to go out on track, and he snapped at me so badly, his crew members sought me out afterwards to apologize for him. That shows his passion, and covering racing, you have to understand that that is some of the beauty and some of the risk in getting phenomenal access to drivers pre-race, pre-qualifying and moments after they’ve stepped from their cars – win or lose.

Stewart has always treated me fairly, and part of that is because his relationship with George Michael was something special. Stewart once saw Michael slam a clipboard on the ground while on air in victory lane and Stewart has told me from that moment on, Michael had Stewart’s respect forever. They sort of had that same unpredictable fire that made them lovable, intimidating but damn interesting.

These drivers spend their lives at the racetrack and the only home away from home for them is their motor coaches. Stewart's is signature red and black with smoke emblazoned on the front. He invited us in for an interview. He used to have a pet monkey but that got old, so now he has two Siamese cats. Still, Stewart maintains he hasn’t gotten soft. (Though he has found a special girl who is a fellow driver.)

Stewart loves ownership but he still loves driving.

Here are a few more tidbits that didn’t make the story:

A fixture at the racetrack for Tony Stewart is: His father, Nelson, a likeable, friendly guy who rides with Stewart around the country and hangs out with his son and even went skydiving with him last year.

One of the biggest frustrations for Tony Stewart: Winning at Daytona in July three times but never being able to win the Daytona 500 in February.

NASCAR drivers are insanely superstitious but something you might be surprised about: Tony Stewart has even had his street address changed because he felt including a 13 was an unlucky number.

When he’s not at the track: Tony lives on a houseboat in Charlotte, N.C.

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