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Now that the dust has settled on the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series I wanted to take a stab at explaining just why many Smoke fans including myself feel that Tony wasn’t given the farewell season he deserved.

(photo source: @StewartHaasRcng Twitter account)

When Tony announced his “retirement” (and I use that term loosely because I am sure that he will race more this year than he did last year) he made it absolutely clear that he did not want the rigmarole that Jeff Gordon was given week in and week out. He didn’t want to be drug into the media center every weekend and presented with gifts ranging from the thoughtful to the truly bizarre (not that he escaped that- since he got a bigger than life-size bobble head of himself from Texas Motor Speedway). All Tony wanted to do in his last season is what Tony has wanted to do since he got behind the steering wheel of his first goKart- he wanted to buckle in and race. And for the most part that is what he got.

His fans, however, voiced their discontent all season long about the lack of Tony recognition. Some might be thinking, well he got what he asked for.  While I don’t think what a majority of fans wanted was Tony paraded through the media center pulling gifted ponies and poker tables behind him- they wanted something.

What the fans wanted, expected, hoped for were the things they saw tracks doing the year before with Jeff Gordon. Fans wanted the opportunity to feel engaged and made to feel that not just that their driver was recognized but that they had a part in that recognition.  Case in point: I have no fewer than three Jeff Gordon towels each from different tracks that were dispersed to fans during the 2015 season for fans to wave during lap 24. I went to one race more in 2016 and I don’t have any Tony Stewart towels. Fans wanted to see things like a race named after him like Phoenix did for Jeff Gordon.  They wanted to see Speed Limit 14 MPH when the drove around Las Vegas Motor Speedway although that would be a pretty damn slow speed limit and technically Tony wasn’t driving at Las Vegas because of his back injury. You get my drift though.

Some tracks did do things for Tony fans. Some had Tony’s likeness gracing program covers, posters, and even a coveted (normal sized) bobbleheads. But subtle signs on backstretches, wall of fame presentations and a rock in his honor not withstanding tributes denoting Tony and engaging fans in celebrating their driver were actually far and few between at the track.  Fans at home missed out too- many times lap 14 was not even televised let alone mentioned showing fans standing in celebration of their beloved driver.  They wanted Tony mentioned occasionally during races despite his less than stellar performances most races.

Ultimate what was missing for Tony’s NASCAR fans was the sense of community that the track promoters and sponsors created during Jeff Gordon’s farewell season. Sure they can claim it is what Tony wanted but what he wanted was to be subjected to constant distraction. What Tony fans wanted and perhaps needed by and large could have been done without going against Tony’s wishes. THAT is why SMOKE fans feel slighted by the treatment of Tony’s retirement.

You had to know I would write about this right?—AMY

(Photo Source: Zimbio.com/Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America)

It rained on my drive into work this morning. I don’t know that you could call it a light rain as the drops were big, fat thick drops that didn’t just land on my windshield but announced each of their arrivals with a wet thud.  I guess you would call it a brief shower.  So brief that our dry, drought-ridden soil wouldn’t even look wet and the roads wouldn’t get slick.  It was just enough to turn a normal drive wistful as I carried on into work because I don’t like rain in general.  But then- the more I thought about how hard up the entire state is for water I was a tad okay with it and even wished for more of it since we really need it.

I mentioned this in my last post on the subject, that retirement for Tony Stewart was going to come sooner or later (I had hoped later) as it almost always does with everyone- driver, technology support services user services specialist (yes I know it’s a mouthful and technically it’s only half my title), librarian, teacher, chief compliance officer, what ever you do.  I absolutely stand by my words that I am not ready for a NASCAR without Tony Stewart as a driver and I am not. Still. But watching Tony’s press conference announcing his retirement has left me with the realization that while yes I am sad…I am sad for me. Not for Tony Stewart.

(Photo Source: Zimbio.com/ Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America)

It started off when Tony mentioned that first off while he was retiring from driving a NASCAR Sprint cup- he wasn’t retiring as an owner nor would he never be stepping into a race car again.  It started to solidify when one of the members of the press started to go over his legacy stats, and totally solidified for me when he said that he has won more championships as an owner than as a driver. Tony’s press conference left me with the realization that while the hard core Tony Stewart fan is sad, I can’t help but the both happy and grateful.

Yes happy. Why? Because Tony is stepping out of the drivers seat on his own terms and taking time to do things he’s put on the back burner. He seemed happy during the press conference, and dare I say even a little excited about taking this next step.  I can’t help but support that and be happy for him.  He stated that this was 100% his decision and the past several years (the broken leg and tragic accident) didn’t make the decision for him.  This was something I fretted about.  I am happy because to take a comment a Facebook friend of mine made on one of his own posts and make it my own- it’s not like the Tony Train is going to pull into Homestead at the end of next season and just stop. It’s just heading on a different track.

I am grateful because he is giving us fans one more year as a Sprint Cup (or whatever the series will be called next year) driver and he states that he is putting himself all in during that year.  That is 36 more points paying races he is giving us fans and I for one am grateful for every single one of them. So grateful that I have already applied for tickets to a race I have never been to without even knowing exactly when that race will be.

(Photo Source: Zimbio.com/Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images North America

I don’t know about you all, but I plan to spend the next 44 NASCAR points races (and the three non points races) cheering my guts out for Tony.  It sounds to me like he is “hellbent on victory” to quote one of his shirts and so am I.  All I can say is consider yourself warned because if you thought I should have come with a warning label before-  you ain’t seen nothing yet.

So yeah- it rained a little today. And while I don’t like rain. That Rain? Is a good thing.

PS. I disagreed with one thing Tony said during the press conference. He DOES deserve accolades similar to Jeff Gordon next year. He might not want them- but he has earned them.

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I would like to encourage all of my Smoke fans to not just thank Tony Stewart for what he’s meant to you as fans- but to take part on the StandWithSmoke.com Tony Stewart Foundation campaign to show Tony on twitter that we love and support and STAND with him in ALL aspects. It’s really easy to do:

1. Donate at least $1.00 to StandWithSmoke.com (if you donate at least $10.00- your donation is doubled by an anonymous donor up to a total donation of $50,000 – which means the foundation would get $100,00).

2. Print out your #StandWithSmoke sign (the link will be in your email receipt).

3. Post a picture or video (or both) of you with your sign on the Tony Stewart Foundation FaceBook page or on twitter with the hashtag #StandWithSmoke and tag @14TSF.