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 Keselowski, Jimmie 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.”