Sprint Cup Awards

After last event as Cup driver, Tony Stewart still has a lot of work to do

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Tony Stewart has probably lost count of the number of times he’s had to remind people of a simple fact.

He’s not retiring from driving race cars, just the kind that have NASCAR labels on them.

Stewart brought up this point in what was technically his last interview as a NASCAR driver at Friday night’s Sprint Cup Awards banquet in Las Vegas.

“This isn’t the last time I’m going to talk to you guys,” Stewart said after the ceremony, which included a surprise appearance and tribute by musician Eddie Vedder. “I’ve said it all along through this whole year, the reason this isn’t a big deal to me is I’m going to be around, I’m going to see you guys like I always see you, just a different role. If I was retiring and walking away from the sport I would be a lot more emotional about it. But it’s literally just changing roles. I’m not going anywhere.”

In fact, Stewart will only have about 14 days of downtime in the coming months because of his other commitments in the racing community.

“If I showed you my phone you would cry,” Stewart said.

After Dec. 16, Stewart will have 10 days off before diving into a schedule that begins with working at the Tulsa Shootout in Oklahoma.

After four days at home in Columbus, Indiana, Stewart then goes to Talladega to watch another dirt race before returning to Tulsa for the Chili Bowl.

Eventually, Stewart will be back at a NASCAR facility, but firmly in his role as an owner while Clint Bowyer takes over for him in the No. 14 Ford.

“I’m looking forward to having Clint even though I think I’m going to have a lot more gray hairs from Clint than I have now,” Stewart joked.

Bowyer wasn’t in attendance at the Awards Banquet, but instead was an enjoying a day of hunting while his future boss was being honored for his 18-year NASCAR career.

“He sent a picture today, he was deer hunting and I said ‘You look a lot happier deer hunting than I am about putting a tuxedo on here in 30 minutes,'” Stewart said of Bowyer, who will join Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch in Stewart-Haas Racing’s stable of drivers.

Bowyer spent 2016 with HScott Motorsports, an experience that ended with him 27th in points and filing a lawsuit against the team, which was quickly settled.

“I know he’s excited about it,” Stewart said. “I know last year wasn’t at all the year he wanted to have. I kept telling him, you could tell when he was really getting down, I told him to be patient. ‘There’s light at the end of the tunnel.'”

Johnson: ‘Easy to get the emotions down’ while writing banquet speech

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Most activities usually get easier with repetition.

That doesn’t exclude Jimmie Johnson writing and then delivering a championship acceptance speech for the seventh time.

Well, Friday night’s speech in Las Vegas was actually the sixth one Johnson has written.

“One year, I think it might have been my first (championship) year, I had a speech writer write it and they used the word ‘awful.’ ‘I want to thank an awful lot of people,'” Johnson recalled after the Sprint Cup Awards banquet.

“I was so nervous and it wasn’t in my voice, but I proceeded to thank all the ‘awful people in the room.’ I didn’t realize I even said it until the crowd erupted with laughter, I’m like ‘what did I just say?’

“From that point on I’ve done it myself.”

Two weeks after becoming the third driver to win a seventh Sprint Cup title, Johnson once again stood on a stage with owner Rick Hendrick, crew chief Chad Knaus to thank those responsible for his record-tying achievement.

The thesis of his speech was that all seven of his titles – matching Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt – were done with one team, one crew chief, one manufacturer and one sponsor in 15 years.

“This one came together I feel pretty quick for me,” Johnson said afterward. “It was easy to get the emotions down. Clearly the one driver, sponsor, team, manufacturer, that whole component was the first thing I got down on paper and it kind of set the tone for the rest of the speech for me.”

Johnson capped off the roughly seven-minute speech by echoing how Earnhardt ended his seventh championship speech in 1994, when he tied Richard Petty.

“I might have won as many championships as Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, but I will never be the King or the Intimidator,” Johnson said in his speech. “I’m just a guy from California who alway wanted to race.”

Johnson watched Earnhardt’s speech as preparation for his 22 years later.

“I was left with the impression he was faced with the questions, not controversy, but just discussion about tying The King and who was better,” Johnson said. “Just in the tone and the way he spoke. He wanted to pay respect to Richard. As soon as I saw that quote, watched it for myself, I knew it was going into my speech and it was so fitting and so truthful.”

Two weeks after the biggest moment of his career, Johnson said he felt like the gravity of the accomplishment finally hit him while on stage.

“I felt like I got ran over by it on the stage there tonight. That was insane,” Johnson said. “A lot of moments, it just kept building.”

One of those moments included the surprise appearance by Michael Phelps, a 28-time Olympic medalist, who Johnson had presented with a male athlete of the year award just last week.

“I saw his name pop up on the teleprompter and it wasn’t like somebody was going to talk about him, he was going to be a speaker the way it was on the prompter,” Johnson said. “I saw that pop up and I said ‘You’ve go to be kidding me.’ Then he started walking out from there. That was a complete and total shock.”

Best from the Sprint Cup Awards red carpet

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Here’s a look at the stars of the Sprint Cup Series arriving with their families on the red carpet for Friday night’s award banquet in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian France and his wife Amy attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on December 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian France and his wife Amy. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson, his wife Chandra and their daughters Genevieve and Lydia attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on December 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, his wife Chandra and their daughters Genevieve and Lydia. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

Kyle Busch and his wife Samantha. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch and his wife Samantha. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano and his wife Brittany attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on December 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Joey Logano and his wife Brittany. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr. and his girlfriend Sherry Pollex attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on December 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
 Martin Truex Jr. and his girlfriend Sherry Pollex . (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth and his wife Katie attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on December 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth and his wife Katie. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his fiance Amy Reimann attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on December 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his fiance Amy Reimann. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski and his girlfriend Paige White attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on December 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Brad Keselowski and his girlfriend Paige White. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch and his fiance Ashley Van Metre attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on December 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch and his fiance Ashley Van Metre. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick and his wife Delana attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on December 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick and his wife Delana. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jamie McMurray and his wife Christy attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on December 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Jamie McMurray and his wife Christy. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Austin Dillon and his fiance Whitney Ward attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on December 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Austin Dillon and his fiance Whitney Ward. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson and his girlfriend Katelynn Sweet attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on December 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Kyle Larson and his girlfriend Katelynn Sweet. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

 

LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 02: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Chris Buescher and his girlfriend Emma Helton attend the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on December 2, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher and his girlfriend Emma Helton. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Carl Edwards: ‘Amazing how we competed all year’ (video)

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After telling a story about Tony Stewart‘s generosity, Carl Edwards makes sure to thank all of his sponsors, his team and his competitors on what he called a “heck of a year.”

Edwards finished fourth in the championship standings after crashing at Homestead-Miami Speedway while looking like he could have been just laps away from claiming his first championship.

“I don’t know if I can watch that Homestead tape anymore, but I’m super proud of my guys.”

Joey Logano honored to race against Jimmie Johnson (video)

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Joey Logano admits that he hates coming in second, but said if he could pick someone to lose to it would be Jimmie Johnson.

“I never got to race against Richard Petty or Dale Earnhardt, but I raced against Jimmie Johnson and that’s something I’m very proud of.”