Grassroots campaign hopes to show support for Tony Stewart.
Tony Stewart has taken his share of fan criticism from the electronic media regarding his actions on the evening of August 9, when his sprint car collided with fellow racer Kevin Ward, Jr., 20, who was on foot following an on-track incident.
Ward, as you are likely aware, was upset with the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, and left his car to confront Stewart, whose car was still under power. Ward was killed. The criticism of Stewart involves to what extent – indeed, if at all – Stewart should share the blame.
Stewart’s fans have responded, via Twitter, Facebook, email and other electronic outlets, to mount a grassroots campaign supporting Stewart this Saturday night at the NASCAR Irwin Tools 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The suggestion is a simple one: Stand up on lap 14, which is the number of Stewart’s NASCAR Chevrolet, as well as the number of his sprint car.
The supporters are rallying around the “StandWithSmoke” logo that Stewart’s team introduced for his return at the Daytona 500, his first race back since he himself suffered a badly broken leg in a sprint car crash in Iowa in August, 2013. Smoke is, of course, Stewart's nickname.
The Bristol movement is “100 percent fan driven” said Mike Arning, who handles communications for Stewart.
The team used the hashtag #StandWithSmoke at Daytona, and through the first couple of races, when Stewart returned to the car. They began using it again just before Watkins Glen to “pump up support for Tony to make the Chase,” Arning said. They dropped it Sunday at the Glen, and haven’t used it since.
Still, there is a Facebook group using the name StandWithSmoke that is a “closed group” with, at present, 407 members who, says the group’s mission statement, is “For all of us that know Smoke didn’t mean to hit Kevin Ward Jr.”
Stewart did not race at Watkins Glen, or at the next race at Michigan. Arning says no timetable has been set for a decision as to whether Stewart will race at Bristol.
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