If you’ve been to the Chili Bowl this week and saw a familiar-looking guy dressed in jeans, a t-shirt and a ballcap, riding a tractor to help smooth over the racing surface, you have a good eye.
Three-time Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart, also an ardent sprint car racer, team owner and downright fan, has been in Tulsa this week in one of the most unusual roles of his three-decade racing career.
Instead of doing something more along the lines of maybe being the event’s grand marshal or an honorary official, Stewart is getting his hands dirty – and loving it.
Yep, that guy on the tractor is Stewart, one of four individuals along with Wes Smith, Martin Edwards and Brad “Gravel” Chandler that are charged with keeping the surface smooth and racey.
The foursome go out several times throughout the day’s racing to make sure things look good. And there’s no better judge than Stewart – it takes a racer to know what a racer wants, especially on a dirt track.
Stewart is no stranger to driving a tractor. He does it on a regular basis at the dirt track he owns in Rossburg, Ohio, namely, Eldora Speedway, arguably one of the best dirt short tracks in the country.
A two-time Chili Bowl winner (2002 and 2007), Stewart is unable to race in this year’s event because he’s still recovering from off-season surgery to clean up issues from the August 2013 sprint car wreck he had in Iowa.
But that doesn’t keep him from driving the tractor, which speeds around the track at the exhaustive speed of 10 mph.
“There are four of us here (on the track crew) who can absolutely destroy this week,” Stewart told USA Today. “If one of us screws this thing up, we could have a bunch of people mad at us in one night. It’s like any other race track. The guys who prep it don’t get enough credit. This is just as competitive as working on the cars.
“The guy who runs the grader here — I’ve never seen anybody better. This track stuff is real soft. You can take a key and scratch through the top, it’s so soft. But to be as precise as he is with that blade — it’s sexy to watch.”
His task this week has made for some long days, but as he says in the following tweet, but Stewart couldn’t be happier.
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