Fans put Tony Stewart on “NASCAR ’14” game cover

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Despite missing the final months of the 2013 season, Tony Stewart hasn’t been forgotten by NASCAR Nation. The latest sign of that came this morning, when it was announced that the three-time Sprint Cup champion had won a fan vote to earn the cover for the upcoming “NASCAR ’14” video game.

NASCAR says over 700,000 votes came in for the Facebook competition and that Stewart – who had his season end when he broke his right leg in a sprint car crash back in August – garnered nearly one-fifth of all the votes.

According to the Associated Press, he took 69 percent of the vote in the final round to beat four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon for the cover.

“Being selected by the fans to be on the cover of NASCAR ‘14 is a huge honor,” Stewart said in a NASCAR release. “It’s been a long couple of months, but my fans’ passion has been one of the driving factors in helping me rehab and my ability to prepare for returning to the race car in February.”

Throughout Stewart’s recovery, his legion of fans have rallied around him and especially so on social media, where the #SmokeWillRise Twitter hashtag has now become ubiquitous among NASCAR followers. Now, his fans on Facebook have enabled him to earn a third NASCAR video game cover.

Back in September, Stewart noted how grateful he’s been for the support during his first media conference since the accident.

“I know there’s a lot of fans that haven’t been able to talk to us that are supportive, and that’s the stuff…When I’m having a bad day at therapy and I don’t feel like doing it or it hurts and you don’t want to go those extra 10 minutes or whatever, that’s the things that you put in your mind that help keep you motivated and wanting to push to get through this and get healthy,” he said at the time.

“Because it’s not just for me, it’s for 200 people here at Stewart-Haas Racing…It’s for our fans. It’s for the people that support us every week that miss me being in the race car.”

And there are plenty of those people that are waiting for him to get back to doing what he does best.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it would seem right for Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — to spend some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).