Stewart Turns A Minus To A Plus

by Dave Yaeck
August 13, 2002

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At some point in our life, we all face a defining moment.  A moment that can shift the balance of what we were, into what we can be. For Tony Stewart, that moment just may have been this past weekend, when he took that negative and turned it into a positive.

Stewart gave some much needed positive exposure to the Home Depot sponsorship.
Photo: Getty Images/Allsport

Let’s take a look back just over a week ago. Tony Stewart, driver of the #20 Home Depot Pontiac is 7 laps away from a probable top 5 finish but then the caution flag comes out. On the restart Stewart struggles with his car, finishing the race in 12th place, a disappointment from what might have been. Stewart parks his car in an empty bay, and everyone knows what happened after that.

“This was my heart attack, my wake up call.” Stewart said this last Tuesday and repeatedly apologized about the incident with Gary Mook, a freelance photographer for the Indianapolis Sun. It takes someone to admit he made a mistake but it takes an even bigger man to admit when he has a problem and decide to take action. Some people may say that Tony Stewart has said this in the past but in all the research that I have done this week, I did not find anywhere where he was this convicted that his thoughts will turn into positive actions.

This past weekend at Watkins Glen, he proved that after being fined not only by NASCAR but his own sponsor, Home Depot (they fined him $50,000 that will go to the United Way charity and placed him on probation for the rest of the year as well), and being criticized by many fans, and critics for not being able to control his temper, he was able to bounce back and dominate the Sirius Satellite Radio at The Glen and pick up his third win of the season.

"I owe this all to my Home Depot team and that Home Depot has stuck with me this week," Stewart said. "It's been a tough week for all of us. Especially when you get someone like myself who has hurt his race team and hurt his sponsors, not only last weekend, but with other things I've done.” He also dedicated the victory to Gary Mook and credited him for making him see the light and the error of his ways.

“This race is for Mr. Mook,” Stewart said. “He is gonna help be an integral part of changing my life, and this was step one of it and I’m just real thankful for him.”

Today’s victory may also have been a defining moment for Tony Stewart but he has a long road ahead of him in the new direction he has chosen to live his life. As long as his heart is in the right place, we may be seeing the beginning of the development of one of NASCAR’s future icons of the sport.

The author can be contacted nascar@autoracing1.com

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Others by Dave

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Stewart Turns a Minus to a Plus 8/13/02

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Redemption in Atlanta for Stewart and Pontiac 3/11/02

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