Tony Stewart lost his phone but not his sense of humor as he addressed the NASCAR media for what may be his last time as a Sprint Cup Series driver.
In one of the first questions in Thursday’s media availability, Stewart was asked if anything had “tugged at you or gotten you this week” as he prepared for his final Cup series start at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
His unexpected response, “That kind of struck a nerve because somebody reached out and touched me yesterday and stole my cell phone out of my pocket. That question brought that right back into my mind.
“It’s a hell of way to start the week, to get your phone stolen.”
Stewart said the most disappointing thing of getting his phone stolen was being unable to read and respond to the numerous calls and text messages from people congratulating him on his NASCAR career.
“I should have a new phone tomorrow and when I turn it back on, I’m sure it will go crazy.”
What changes after this weekend
Stewart, who enters Sunday’s Ford 400 with 49 career Cup victories, was adamant his involvement in NASCAR will not diminish. Rather, his role will change with emphasis on overseeing Stewart-Haas Racing’s four Cup team operation and the addition of a new Xfinity Series program.
“In the big picture, what’s changing, is not really a huge change because 90 percent of the things that I’m doing, I’m going to continue to do,” he said. “Obviously in the racing world, it will be a big change, but in my world, it’s not going to be a big change.
“I just look like it’s halftime of the ball game, in all honesty. This was the first half and next season will start the second half. It’s just going to be just as much fun, if not more fun, than the first half was.”
Asked about his legacy in NASCAR, Stewart said he hadn’t thought about it.
“Usually legacy means you’re old,” he said. “It’s been a fun 18 years. Not every part of it has been fun and I’ve made you guys’ lives hell at certain points during my 18-year run, but the thing is, I’ve always said what was on my mind.
“Whether it was popular or unpopular, I always fought for what I believed in, whether it was safety for other drivers or some etiquette on the race track. I always fought for what I believed in. At the end of the day, that’s why I did it. I wasn’t trying to be a jerk, or something like that, I just always spoke my mind and fought for what I believed in.”
Is it really the end?
Stewart said as far he was concerned, Sunday’s race will be his last in the Cup series.
“Nah, I’m good,” he said if there would be some scenario which would entice him to return. “This is it. This is the last one.
“I learned my lesson from Jeff (Gordon) this year. Jeff tried to do someone a favor this year and got roped into running half the season. Thank you Jeff for teaching me a lesson so I don’t get roped into it.”
Stewart admitted racing is the only thing he knows right now, so his upcoming calendar is filled with just that – working at the Tulsa Shootout at the end of December, a trip to the Talladega (Ala.) Short Track and then a return trip in January to Tulsa for the Chili Bowl.
“So, this is what retirement is like,” Stewart quipped. “It’s just busier.”