Tony Stewart’s dirt racing legacy has yet to be fully written

Tony Stewart

Tony Stewart

It was announced last week that Tony Stewart would be stepping away from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series after the 2016 season. When the final chapter of his racing story in that form of the sport is written after he takes the checkered flag next year in Homestead, Fla. it will be an impressive one. Three championships and 48 race wins(provided he doesn’t add to those totals between now and then) will be his legacy in the most prolific form of racing contested in the United States.

But NASCAR is not the only type of racing in which Stewart will leave a remarkable legacy. The Rushville, Ind. native’s exploits in other forms of the sport are not only extensive, but presumably, far from finished.

As is well known, ‘Smoke’ is the proprietor of what is one of dirt racing’s most recognizable facilities in the Eldora Speedway located in Rossburg, Ohio. He is also part of the ownership group(with Kenny Wallace and Bob Sargent) for dirt tracks in Paducah, KY and Macon, Ill.

Eldora hosts some of the sport’s biggest events. The $100,000-to-win Dream and the World 100 are among the most coveted prizes in Dirt Late Model racing while the King’s Royal is one of Sprint Car racing’s top events. The track also holds the only major series NASCAR sanctioned dirt race each summer when the Camping World Truck Series pays a visit to the Ohio oval.

The Paducah and Macon facilities stage events on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the Summer Nationals tours among a number of other high profile races.

And Stewart’s exploits in dirt racing go beyond track ownership. His Tony Stewart Racing team has been the most successful Sprint Car operation on the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series over the past several seasons with championship drivers such as Donny Schatz and Steve Kinser behind the wheel of those cars.

And more, Stewart purchased the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series earlier this year and took over promotion of that touring series throughout 2015.

When Stewart finally steps away from NASCAR, he will place Kansas native and former dirt racer Clint Bowyer in the driver’s seat of his No. 14 Chevrolet at Stewart-Haas Racing. Significantly, Bowyer is also heavily involved in the grassroots form of the sport as the owner of Clint Bowyer Racing, which fields Dirt Late Model efforts for Don O’Neal and Steve Francis.

Stewart said in the press conference in which he announced his plans to retire from driving in NASCAR that he hoped to get out on the dirt more often himself. Perhaps he will once again be seen in Sprint Car competition, something he has avoided since his involvement in a tragic accident that resulted in the death of another competitor back in 2014. Late Model and Modified racing could eventually wind up on his retirement to-do list as well.

As is clearly evident, Tony Stewart may be stepping away from his driving chores in one form of racing but he shows every indication that his influence will continue, if not even increase, in other forms of the sport. Perhaps Stewart’s retirement from driving a Sprint Cup car will serve to benefit dirt racing in all its forms throughout the future.

There has always existed somewhat of a void between NASCAR and dirt racing. However, Stewart’s involvement in both forms of the sport has played a part in bridging that gap. Maybe that will not only continue to be the case in the future but will be further improved.

The legacy of this future NASCAR Hall of Fame member no doubt has many chapters remaining before the final story is finished on clay.

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