(For those not aware- a little over a year ago I undertook a project here on BadGroove that we lovingly called Project Smoke In My Eyes. The concept started out as a way for fans to submit their own stories about Tony Stewart and ended up being put into a book that is currently on it’s way to Tony for delivery sometime in December. The book is pages of fans stories about Tony Stewart. While I was compiling the submissions I worked on creating my own submission for the book. I went through several versions and finally at the end of my own self-imposed deadline came up with the following. It appears as the last entry in the Smoke In My Eyes book- the only thing behind it being The End- But Really Just The Beginning.—- AMY)
This is what seems like my one millionth attempt at writing my own entry for “Smoke In My Eyes.” My most recent previous attempt was pages and pages of me waxing on poetically but as I edited it, I realized that while it said a lot- it wasn’t actually what I wanted to say.
Mostly what I want to say is thank you Tony.
Thank you for making motorsports interesting to me again. I spent several years after the split of the CART series only paying attention to the big races like the Daytona 500, Indy 500 and a couple of NHRA events. While I had been a big fan of CART when the split happened, I was a teenager and I had let my interests wander instead of trying to keep track of different drivers in different series. What I saw in you as a driver drew me back to motorsports just after your rookie year in NASCAR. It was your fire and your passion, you honesty and your penchant for saying exactly how you felt that not just drew me in but made me the stalwart and loyal fan I am today.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to watch you race thirty-three times (soon to be 34) in person. I was lucky enough to be there to watch you win in person four times- including your first wins at both Auto Club Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway as well as your most recent win at Sonoma. I still remember after your first Auto Club win that the only picture I got of your burnout was a blurry picture containing only fence, part of your tire and smoke because I was so excited I forgot how to work my own camera. I remember after you crossed the finish line first in Vegas jumping out of my seats in the grandstands and rushing towards the Neon Garage. Transversing the pedestrian tunnel was like trying to swim upstream, and I could feel my cell phone in my hand blowing up with texts I wouldn’t get the chance to return until much later because the battery died. I still have a piece of confetti from victory lane that day. And that win at Sonoma this year? I was so unbelievably proud and so excited I didn’t even think to take pictures. I’d never admit it to your face but I might have even cried a little.
Thank you for agreeing to let some blogger you had never met interview you not once, but three times. That first time in 2010 was my first interview for BadGroove and to me the thought of interviewing you was like a football player playing his first game in the Super Bowl. Thank you for putting me immediately at ease during that interview because my nerves would have made it totally awkward otherwise. My favorite part of the whole interview was the very last question. It was a question about your Foundation and your face completely lit up as you talked about it- your passion for the children’s and animal charities you support was so evident and inspiring. Each of the interviews we did with you have a special place in my heart but that moment is my all time favorite. Also without those interviews I am positive other interviews and experiences we had as a result of the blog would never have happened. My little blog that started out as a way to share my adventures with friends has grown into something so much more.
Thank you for showing me that sometimes you have to have a little faith in yourself when the stars align and opportunity comes knocking like you did when you became an owner/driver in 2009. I probably would have never taken the leap into a management role in my own career in Information Technology when the opportunity arose to manage the very helpdesk that I started on as a student without that inspiration from YOU. Taking a chance and listening to my gut that this was the right move to make is what I did- just like you did. My new role is both rewarding and challenging in a good way (most days) and is one of my favorite parts of my job. Of course your tidbit during that first interview about having good people in place was good advice too- I have an amazing team right now who works quite well together and makes my job managing them easy.
Thank you for having some of the best fans out there. When you sit in line with people at events long enough you can’t help but fraternize and while in general NASCAR fans are great- Tony Stewart fans seem to go above and beyond for each other. This includes so many that I haven’t even met in person but have made over social media and through my blog because THEY ROCK! All of them.
Thank you for being the embodiment of resilience and determination all while being fallible. In December of 2014 I got a tattoo and at the bottom of it- it stays “Smoke Always Rises.” It’s a reminder to me that when life throws crap my way to stand up, dust myself off, and most importantly to not let it define me but instead find a way to use it to make me stronger.
And finally- THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for giving us fans one more year with you as our driver. While yes we know you’ll still be racing and still be around tracks- we still needed the closure of this season much like I think you did. If you would have just stepped away quietly at the end of last season like you originally wanted- I think it would have been soul crushing for your many fans (including myself). And you likely wouldn’t have this spiffy little book.
Thank you for sharing parts of yourself and your life with us crazy fans and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for you next.