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Tony Stewart says his presence in owner meetings feels ‘like an episode of Sesame Street’

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FORT WORTH, Texas – The end of Tony Stewart‘s Sprint Cup racing career is less than six weeks away, but the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing has already gotten a taste of what the life of a full-time owner will be like.

‘The fun thing is I’ve been to a couple of the owners meetings and it’s pretty cool to sit in the room with Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi, Richard Childress and Joe Gibbs and those guys,” Stewart said Wednesday at Texas Motor Speedway.

But the three-time Sprint Cup champion said his attendance made the meetings with giants of the auto racing industry feel “like an episode of ‘Sesame Street.'”

“There’s one thing in the room that doesn’t belong and it’s not like the others and they point at me,” said Stewart, who was holding his annual “Smoke Show” Fantasy Camp benefiting Speedway Children’s Charities.

But even though he’s been co-owner of SHR since 2009, Stewart still doesn’t feel like an owner.

“I won’t say I’m a part of that group yet because I still feel like I’m just a driver right now,” said Stewart, who leaves his NASCAR driver’s seat behind on Nov. 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “To be able to work with those guys on behalf of the sport I think is going to be a lot of fun.”

At some point in the next six weeks will be Stewart’s final Sprint Cup Drivers Council meeting. Stewart is one of nine drivers on the council that was founded last year. With him on it are Brad KeselowskiJimmie Johnson, defending series champion Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.

“The thing that I’m most excited about with the drivers council is I feel like it’s a good group of guys in there right now,” Stewart said. “I feel like their mindset and their ability to work together for the reason and the right causes and goals.”

Stewart’s presence on the council has had an impact this season. NASCAR’s year-long odyssey regarding lug nuts began with Stewart’s rant about the issue in April.

In January he criticized NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France for not have a presence in the meetings. France then attended an April meeting in Talladega, an act appreciated by the drivers.

He’s also been an encouraging voice for young drivers like Larson, who admitted that at first he didn’t feel deserving of a spot on the council.

“If you don’t say anything, why are you on this?’’ Stewart told Larson. “You have an opinion, speak up.’’

Stewart has opinions. On everything. But he recently said he’s ready to no longer be the voice of the garage.

Is there any opinion “Smoke” has kept to himself, waiting to drop on the drivers council right before he puts both feet into his role as an owner?

“I’m going to save that for when I get out of the car at Homestead I think,” Stewart joked at TMS. “The hard part is I wish we could tell you guys all the stuff that’s discussed in it but it’s not the right thing to do.”

Stewart is “proud” of what the council has accomplished in it first two years and is a little surprised at how unselfish its members have been.

“It would be really easy in our sport to be selfish and try to work on things that you think are going to benefit you,” Stewart said. “But the driver council does a really good job of not doing that. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised about that, but I guess to a certain degree a little bit I was surprised that everybody really cared more about the sport than they were about what their individual organizations were working on.”

Mental fatigue, endurance are biggest challenges for drivers in Coca 600 (video)

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While you’d think they’re the same thing, mental fatigue and endurance are two entirely different animals when it comes to racing in NASCAR’s longest race of the season, Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

On Friday’s Motorsports Special on NBCSN, NASCAR on NBC analyst and former NASCAR Cup crew chief Steve Letarte explained how drivers deal with both the mental and physical strain of the grueling race. Also giving their viewpoint were Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman.

Driving around isn’t grueling you say, eh? Tell that to Brad Keselowski, who lost an incredible 16 pounds racing in a 600 a few years back.

Drivers will make sure to stay hydrated with liquids — and even snacks like candy bars to keep their energy boosted — during the course of the race.

Check out Letarte’s analysis in the videos above and below.

 

Legendary announcer Ken Squier gets you ready for Sunday’s big day of racing (video)

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Sunday is the biggest day of the year in motorsports, starting in the morning with Formula One’s legendary Monaco Grand Prix.

Then, at Noon ET, it’s the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The final part of the tripleheader of racing is NASCAR’s longest race of the season, the 400 lap, 600 mile Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Newly-named NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2018 inductee Ken Squier gives you a great primer for what promises to be a memorable day around the world (see video above).

Roller coasters, bicycling & softball: How drivers spent their day off

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With no track activity, NASCAR Cup drivers had a free day on Friday and some were able to get out and about.

Jimmie Johnson helped organize a 69-mile bike ride Friday morning for 2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden, who died May 22 at age 35 from injures suffered when he was hit by a car while cycling in Italy. The 69 miles ridden were for the number Hayden raced with in his career. Among drivers who joined him were Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott and Daniel Suarez.

 

Others did other activities on their day off.

Ryan Blaney went to Carowinds amusement park just south of Charlotte, North Carolina, and took to periscope as he rode in the front row on the Fury 325 roller coaster, which reaches a peak height of 325 feet and then goes into an 81-degree drop.

The ride reaches speeds up to 95 mph. The coaster is North America’s longest steel coaster at 1.25 miles. The average ride time is 3 minutes, 25 seconds, and the ride crosses both the North Carolina and South Carolina border.

Brad Keselowski spent part of his team playing in the Team Penske softball game and provided proof of his hitting ability.

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Stewart-Haas Racing, Nature’s Bakery reach settlement that includes sponsorship

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Stewart-Haas Racing announced Friday that it has reached an agreement with Nature’s Bakery that will include the company serving as a sponsor for four Cup races split between Clint Bowyer and Danica Patrick.

Those four races will be announced at a later date.

As part of the agreement, all lawsuits between Stewart-Haas Racing and Nature’s Bakery have been dropped.

Stewart-Haas Racing filed a $31 million breach of contract lawsuit against Nature’s Bakery on Feb. 3. Nature’s Bakery had two years remaining on a three-year contract to sponsor Danica Patrick’s team when the company sent the team a notice of termination on Jan. 19 . Nature’s Bakery was to have paid $15,212,000 each season to sponsor the team.

Nature’s Bakery filed a counterclaim Feb. 25 stating it did not see the return it was led to believe in sponsoring Patrick’s team.

“It’s gratifying to see a difficult situation get resolved in a professional manner that suits all parties,” said Brett Frood, president, Stewart-Haas Racing. “Together, we worked diligently to find an equitable solution to our collective challenges.”

“I am a longtime motorsports fan and, particularly, a fan of NASCAR,” said Dave Marson, founder of Nature’s Bakery. “Our partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing began with direct, open conversations and that foundation allowed us to reach this agreement.”

Other parts of the agreement were not revealed.

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