Champions Week ends on high note

From the White House to a photo session in Times Square during a blizzard, Tony Stewart was whisked from event to event with nary a complaint from the media shy 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion. It was often questioned as to what kind of...

From the White House to a photo session in Times Square during a blizzard, Tony Stewart was whisked from event to event with nary a complaint from the media shy 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion.

It was often questioned as to what kind of champion Stewart will make and he is still contemplative and unsure about what his reigning year will bring.

"To be honest, I still don't feel like I'm a representative or an ambassador for the sport," Stewart said. "I'm just a simple boy from Indiana. I don't want to be a legend or an icon or anything. I just want to be a race car driver, pure and simple."

Tony Stewart.
Photo by Thomas Chemris.
Although Stewart traditionally avoids press functions, he seemed cheerful during appearances on the Today Show and Fox's The Point with Greta Van Sustren.

"I thought this week that by Wednesday, I'd be on suicide watch," Stewart said. "Actually, it's all been great. I've had a blast."

He attended the annual Thursday's press luncheon and the NMPA Myer's Brothers breakfast Friday morning, where he hobnobbed with the NASCAR, New York, and other media.

Stewart made a trip with his crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, to the New York City fire and police departments on Tuesday. The two paid tribute to the men and women of New York's finest and exchanged gifts.

Stewart did take time out however to enjoy his week on a personal level. Spending time with girlfriend Jaime Schaffer and seeing some of the incredible New York sites including the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Stewart also presented crew chief Greg Zipadelli with a fire engine red Corvette on Friday morning, which was sitting on Park Avenue in front of the Waldorf-Astoria.

"I promised Zippy if we won the championship, I'd buy him a Corvette," commented Stewart. "That's the kind of stuff that makes this fun."

In addition to Stewart being honored as the 2002 Winston Cup champion, all the winners from each of NASCAR's touring and weekly series were invited to spend champions week in New York City. Those winners included Craftsman Truck Series winner Mike Bliss, and Busch Series champ Greg Biffle.

The rest of the Winston Cup top-ten was also heralded at a ceremony that ran some three hours at New York's legendary Hammerstein Ballroom. After the awards show, invitees attended an exclusive party in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf that lasted well into the wee hours of the morning.

Saturday night saw most teams and driver's back off to North Carolina, but NASCAR officials, were taken to a dinner at Smith & Wollensky to applaud them for their season long efforts and acknowledge their often-thankless contribution to the sport.

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Series NASCAR-CUP