Tony Stewart: From Indy Phenom to NASCAR Superstar is available at bookstores or by visiti
The eyes and the smile are the same, albeit a few more teeth aremissing. Still, it's easy to recognize the 10-year-old go-kart driver isTony Stewart. There's a familiarity in the face, but more important,there's a comfort, an easiness the youngster exudes as he sits in hiskart surrounded by trophies he's won. It's like he belongs there.
Editor's Note: This is an excerpt fromTony Stewart: From Indy Phenom to NASCAR Superstar, by John Close andthe editors of Stock Car Racing magazine. Published by MotorbooksInternational, the book can be purchased at bookstores nationwide, or goto www.motorbooks.com for details on ordering.
From the start, Stewart felt right at home behind the wheel of ahigh-powered go-kart. He began his racing career at age seven and, withthe help of his father, quickly began winning races on oval tracksaround his native Rushville, Indiana. He also quickly learned that hedoesn't like to finish second.
Few drivers have come to the big leagues of NASCAR with the variedbackground of Tony Stewa
By 1983, Stewart was the driver to beat at each event and won his firstracing title of any kind--the International Karting Federation (IKF)Grand National championship. Over the next three years, Stewart maturedas a driver, spending his teen years winning countless go-kart eventsthroughout the Midwest. By age 16, Stewart added another crown, a WorldKarting Association (WKA) national championship, to his list ofaccomplishments. It was only the beginning of what was to become alegendary career in open-wheel racing.
Roy Barker was one of the first to recognize Stewart's talent. Theveteran car owner was impressed with Stewart's go-kart prowess and gavethe 18-year-old driver a shot at piloting a three-quarter (TQ) midget.In just his third start in the car, Stewart didn't disappoint andcaptured the checkered flag in a race.
The highlight of Stewart's 1999 NASCAR Winston Cup rookie season came atRichmond (VA) Inte
Stewart built on his midget success in the early '90s, winning the 1991USAC Rookie of the Year midget title and scoring his first midget win atthe famed Indianapolis Speedrome in 1991. That same year, Stewart jumpedto the larger, more powerful USAC sprint car ranks. He won his firstrace in that division in 1992 at I-44 Speedway in Missouri.
Back in the midgets, Stewart made his first-ever start on a dirt surfacea memorable one when he flipped his mount on Lap 9 of the 1992 HutHundred at Terre Haute, Indiana. Undaunted, Stewart showed the doggedracing resolve that later became his career trademark by rejoining theevent and finishing sixth. A year later, Stewart won the Hut Hundredclassic, his first-ever USAC national midget victory.
The '94 season brought more success to Stewart. He captured his firstUSAC national midget title by winning five times in 22 starts. For hisefforts, Stewart was one of just 12 drivers to be named to the AmericanAuto Racing Writers and Broadcasters 25th Anniversary All-American Team.
In the next five years, Stewart's career continued its meteoric rise. Heshined in the USAC midget, sprint, and champ car ranks. He became one ofthe brightest stars of a new racing body--the Indy Racing League--andtook on the greatest race of them all, the Indianapolis 500. Stock carracing and NASCAR weren't even in the picture yet.