They are protesting the 'character assassination of Tony Stewart.'
Editor's note: Normally we don't publish 'open letters,' but the Tony Stewart story has generated so much reaction from fans that this one, from three of his diehard fans, seems to sum up many of the feelings Stewart's advocates have been expressing. Like the sentiments or not, we thought it was genuine.
Open Letter To Tony Stewart and the mainstream media and anyone else who will read it from three Tony Stewart racing fans:
As I sit to write this letter, I cannot help but think about the genesis from whence it came. This letter comes not only from the conversations we’ve had over the past 7 ½ weeks but rather 13-plus years of conversations and forming a bond over our love of racing and mutual respect and fandom of Tony Stewart. You see, we are three women in our 40’s with different backgrounds and geographical locations, one a teacher in California, one a sales manager in Arizona and one a server in Michigan. We live very different lives day to day, but we years ago found ourselves bound together in a sort of sisterhood created in an old, now defunct message board for fans of Tony Stewart.
I don’t take lightly that I’ve been entrusted to speak on behalf of my friends and while I can only speak with certainty at how we feel, I can say with some confidence that many other fans, not only of Tony Stewart, but also of racing, probably share a number of our thoughts too.
Over the past several weeks, we have read, heard and seen so many things about Tony and the opinions people have formed on what happened, opinions based on minimal and often biases information. As Tony pointed out in his press conference on Monday people formed those opinions without having the totality of information required to have even a remote understanding of what really happened that night.
Sadly, many of these narrow-minded people refuse to admit they had casted their judgment prematurely; they choose to continue with their ignorant thoughts and try to convince others to agree. The truth of the matter has come out; the incident, which took the life of Kevin Ward Jr, was an accident. Experts have analyzed every detail, they’ve seen video that we, the public, haven’t, they’ve talked to witnesses, police investigators, track officials, even other drivers in the race that night and it took a grand jury less than an hour to exonerate Tony of any wrongdoing; yet for some that is not good enough.
However, what we find even more infuriating than the vile comments from random people seen on the internet was the blatant character assassination of Tony Stewart done via the mainstream media. So-called news reporters who couldn’t tell a winged sprint car from a NASCAR sprint cup series car form an Indy car were filing reports as if they were experts. They were showing old footage of Tony letting his emotions show on or at the racetrack, but doing it in a way that took each incident completely out of context.
The mainstream media didn’t bother to do their homework and talk to racers about what happened; they just saw a story and reported on it in the most sensational way they could, truth be damned. What’s even worse is while mainstream media picked up the story immediately after the incident happened and ran with it for several days; they have completely dropped the ball now that Tony has been exonerated. Where is the above the fold story, the lead off report about how Tony didn’t do anything wrong, it’s not there because now, it’s not sensational enough to warrant the space in the paper or the time on the air.
Racing fans who follow the NASCAR media had the benefit of getting the whole story (or as much as can be released at this time) but to the casual person whose knowledge comes only from the mainstream media it’s very likely they aren’t even aware Tony’s been exonerated and that is poor reporting but more than that it is just plain wrong.
'Why we are Tony Stewart fans...'
Why are we Tony Stewart fans, because years ago we found a young driver who wore his heart on his sleeve, not afraid to show emotion, didn’t play the politically correct game and could get in any car at any time be competitive for a win. We found a throwback, a man out of time so to speak, a pure racer, which in today’s racing world is a rarity. We were fans in the early days when there were more boos than cheers and we thought we’d heard it all, that is until the last 7 ½ weeks, regardless we’ve stood proud never wavering at our support for our driver not back then, not now, not ever.
Why are we Tony Stewart fans because in following Tony’s career for all of these years we know him to be not only a pure racer as mentioned above, but someone who has one of the biggest and kindest hearts; he has been involved philanthropically with more causes than we can list, he’s given millions of dollars to organizations that he believes in, and unlike many other celebrities he doesn’t go and puff himself up about it, most of the time the only way we, the fans, find out is because someone else comes out and thanks him for what he’s done and given.
We’re always amazed when new stories pop up from people or organizations that Tony just helped, he could have his public relations people handing out press releases about this side of him, but he doesn’t, he does it just because it’s right, not for recognition.
Why are we Tony Stewart fans, because we love the funny, quick-witted, snarky man that he is. Watching him give a press conference or interview can be like a master’s class in having a sharp tongue. It is fun to watch a rookie reporter (or worse a non-racing reporter) ask him an irrelevant question or a question he’s answered already just to see what he was going to say. His self-deprecating sense of humor always puts a bit of a smile on our faces, how can you not admire a person, such as Tony Stewart, who doesn’t take himself so seriously that he can make fun of himself when warranted; a trait we all share with Tony in a way.
Why are we Tony Stewart fans, because of this quote made by another friend we’ve made through racing, a friend who had the good fortune several years ago to meet Tony and spend a considerable about of time with him on a few different occasions, she said “The Tony I know is soft spoken, looks you in the eye when he speaks to you, loves deeply, hurts secretly and deserves more than he thinks he does.” These words have never rung more true than now.
Why are we Tony Stewart fans, because he is a bigger and better person than each one of us. The manner in which Tony has handled himself in light of everything that has happened and facts, which have come out, doesn’t cease to amaze us. Here is a man who has every right to show some anger or resentment for the way he’s been treated and portrayed, especially by the Ward family, but he’s had nothing but kind words to say. Here’s a man who has every right to be angry at the emotional damage caused by the actions of a young man proven to be under the influence of a mind-altering drug and yet he’s only spoken of Kevin Ward Jr with respect.
Here’s a man who has shown nothing but reverence for a family who has done nothing but vilify him. We understand they are grieving, but even through grief people have to come to an understanding of the truth and sadly, this family seems to want to continue only in anger and hate. Yet regardless, Tony continues to ask people to remember them and pray for them, his actions and reactions through this trying time have only solidified his station as a man of the utmost integrity.
'Standing with you...'
What do we want Tony Stewart to know, that we are standing with you and will support you every step of the way, every lap of the way. We want nothing more than to see the twinkle in your eyes again, to see you smile and laugh and joke with people as you walk down pit road. We want to hear the desire in your voice over radio communications when talking about the car or race; we want to see you in victory lane. We want to see you come to a place of healing that allows you to participate wholeheartedly in your love, your passion and climb back into a winged spirit again.
We want you to start having fun again because when you are having fun, so are we because we find joy in watching and knowing you are that pure racer, that throwback to a time long ago. We want you to live your life with the pride and confidence you deserve. We remind you of the last tweet you posted on August 5th, “it’s your life, live it.” Don’t forget your own words; they are just as true today as they were two months ago.
In this penultimate paragraph I will break from speaking for the three of us and speak only for myself now – what do I want Tony Stewart to know, that it’s okay to forgive yourself, as you’ve said you know it was an accident, stop blaming yourself for not being able to avoid it. I want you to know that harboring unforgiveness even if it’s for your own self is harmful. I want you to know that God has heard you and your prayers and He’s already forgiven you; it’s time to now forgive yourself.
In conclusion, we end with this one last response to why are we Tony Stewart fans the simple answer boils down to this statement: because we are racing fans, and no one better defines what a racer is than Tony Stewart.
Karen Norris (The California teacher and the one who had the honor of writing on behalf of my friends)
Michele Chenoweth (The sales manager in Arizona)
Ginger Trevino (The server in Michigan)