NASCAR Debate: Tony Stewart And His Legacy


Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

When all is said and done, what will remember about Tony Stewart?

While many of his fans will answer this question with memories of his favorite race wins or moments of heated anger, any logical fan will realize that there isn’t really much to remember about the man some affectionately called Smoke. Sure, he had a legendary career in the Sprint Cup Series, capturing 48 checkered flags, three championships and even becoming the owner of his own Sprint Cup team, but what can fans say they remember about him in the last couple of years?

Has Tony Stewart’s legacy taken a hit over the last few season?

Brian Thornsburg – YES

The answer to that question, is absolutely nothing.

To be honest, Stewart probably should have realized that he wasn’t able to be competitive anymore and retired years ago, but it was always his love of the sport and of racing that brought him back to the track every week. While that might be a good quote for the movie that may be made about his racing career, it is the same thing that damaged his legacy in the end.

Now instead of a legacy of winning and championships to look back on, fans are now met with uncomfortable memories of poor finishes, angry outbursts, crippling injuries and the incident that took Kevin Ward JR’s life at the young age of 20. If anything, Stewart’s career shouldn’t be defined as a triumph, but a tragedy of not knowing when to hang up his helmet.

What is the last thing you remember about Tony Stewart’s racing career?

When I asked myself that question while writing this, the only thing I could remember was his fight and subsequent profanity-laced interview with Joey Logano. Some might see that as a positive memory, especially if you’re a Stewart fan, but realistically it was the first sign that Stewart no longer belonged in the sport he loved.

I don’t know about you, but that’s not the Tony Stewart I want to remember. I want to remember his thrilling victories at Daytona, I want to remember his post race interviews that completely stole the show, I want to remember the moments he stood on top of his car and hoisted the Sprint Cup Championship, and for that reason, I will be happy when Tony Stewart finally retires in 2016.

Christopher Olmstead – NO

Saying that Tony Stewart’s legacy has taken a hit would mean that you would have to also say it about people like Jeff Gordon. Sure, Gordon won four races in 2014 but look what he did in the few seasons before that and in the one season after.

Any NASCAR driver that has multiple championships is going to go down in history as one of the better drivers, and I think it’s hard to argue that.

Is it nice to see Stewart running how he is currently? No.

However, getting older is an athlete is part of the game and for the most part that means a decline in either skills, production or both. For NASCAR drivers it’s a little bit different than say a pitcher in MLB but it’s still a comparable comparison. I think in the short-term you will have newer fans discredit Stewart based on his recent seasons but how much weight does their opinions hold anyways?

It’s fair to say that a driver who has accomplished as much as Stewart has shouldn’t have to end their career in this manner but in Stewart’s case there are a bunch of other factors. The accident, the injury, the surgeries, all of that plays into what we have seen the last few seasons. Also, don’t forget that he has one more left in him and who is to say that he doesn’t show us a little something in 2016 when he has no weight on his shoulders since he has already lined up his future plans.

Stewart is a legend in this sport and while his recent struggles aren’t ideal, they certainly don’t hurt how he is viewed in the long run.

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