With two races remaining, Stewart’s Sprint Cup career is drawing to a muted close – the most elaborate celebration of his legacy was a life-size bobblehead presented last week to the three-time champion by Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage – and Harvick isn’t pleased about the lack of recognition for a surefire first-ballot NASCAR Hall of Famer.
“(Stewart’s legacy) is not going to be what it should be because I don’t think anybody did a good job of giving him the credit he deserved throughout the year from the racetracks and from a sport standpoint,” Harvick said Friday night after qualifying sixth at Phoenix International Raceway. “That’s been very disappointing from my standpoint. I know that Tony probably would say that he didn’t want that, but I don’t think anybody’s done a very good job for giving him the credit that he for the time he’s put in and the success he’s had in this sport.”
Since the outset of his September 2015 announcement to reveal his impending retirement, Stewart adamantly has insisted he didn’t want to be feted with salutes the way Jeff Gordon was by several tracks last season.
“You can save your gifts,” Stewart said last year. “I’ve got enough rocking chairs at home as it is. I bought those when I wanted to go sit on my own rocking chair. You don’t have to give me one.
“I think what the tracks and the fans have done for Jeff Gordon is very fitting. I think what everybody has done is shown their respect for what he’s done for the sport of auto racing and for Cup and what he has done for motorsports as a whole. I’m not really that kind of guy. I’m content to go race and be around the racing community and the racing family and be around our fans. They can just send me a note from the track president and say, ‘Hey, thank you,’ and that’ll be sufficient for me. I think it’s been very fitting for Jeff. I don’t think I’m worthy of that kind of admiration because I think Jeff has really done so much for the sport that nobody will ever be able to do again.”
Harvick, though, has argued that Stewart’s resume as an IndyCar champion who excelled in open-wheel and stock-car racing was deserving of the same recognition because of its wider impact on motorsports.
“It’s been pretty disheartening to me to see the lack of credit that he’s gotten week to week,” Harvick said.
If tracks wanted to honor “Smoke,” there likely will be many future opportunities. Stewart won’t be disappearing from view next year when he plans to run in various racing series and still attend many NASCAR races as an owner.