Tony Stewart, a 3-time Sprint Cup Series champion has been one of the biggest question marks of the 2015 season. Stewart who is in the middle of the worst slump of his career, was expected by many to get back on track with a new season and new determination. Sadly, fire has yet to lead to any 'Smoke' just yet. So naturally as with all drivers that have seemed to burn out (no pun intended), is it time for the Rushville Rocket to call it a career in the Cup Series? Well, here is my opinion.
Before we get started for those who may not be familiar with Stewart's career, here is a quick breakdown. Stewart who has started 570 races, has found victory lane 48 times, and finished in the top-10, in 298 events. Along the way Smoke (his nickname) has built a reputation as a driver with a fire & brimstone attitude that is not afraid to tell you how he feels. All was well with Stewart as of 2012. He had won his 3rd Cup Series title in 2011, and took home three trophies in the 2012 season, but then 2013 rolled around.
The odd thing about Stewart is that most of his woes have come inside of a dirt sprint car, not a stock car. In 2013 he only started 21 of 36 events after breaking his leg in two different places. Stewart found victory lane once before his injury, but was unable to compete the final 15 events of the season. Most thought this would be the worst moment of his career, but sadly things took a strange twist less than a year later.
In the summer of 2014, I remember waking up at the beach, where I then turned on the hotel television and heard the news that Tony Stewart was involved in a fatal sprint car incident. Then it was told that Stewart had accidentally taken the life of a fellow driver, Kevin Ward Jr. An amateur video shows Stewart's car swerving as Ward approached his car, with many speculating that Stewart purposely hit the young driver. His past record of on track incidents almost made it seem that the possibility of Stewart showing too much aggression and going over board was a real option. As a fan I felt confident nothing was on purpose, but no one but Stewart could answer those questions.
Since the incident it seemed that Smoke just hasn't been the same. It taught him more about life, and changed who he was but it also took the flame out of the very talented driver. Stewart missed the next three events on the Cup Series schedule, much of the time spent in seclusion. I was fortunate to attend Atlanta where he made is return, but his return has simply seemed to be more of him back in the car, not running competitive. Stewart scored just 1 top-10 the remainder of the season. Now, in 2015 fans of Smoke and the sport in general expected a return. The return of a bold, temperamental, but talented driver. Sadly this hasn't happened.
I myself have never been a Stewart fan, but always had respect. What I never expected was to miss him not running up front. If you're a true fan of the sport, you should miss seeing the #14 car competing for wins. Stewart adds to the level of competition and is one of the handful of drivers who will stand up for what he believes in. After the first 16 events, Stewart hasn't competed for a win yet this season and has just one top-10 at Bristol. Honestly, it seems that nothing is getting better. Stewart hasn't shown signs of improvement, leaving fans to question what's next.
With everything now laid on the table, I raise the question to myself if Stewart should retire. My answer is.... No. Now, don't get me wrong is this slump continues for another season or two, then Stewart may need to consider walking away, but I believe there is still time for Stewart to get back to competitive form. Tony doesn't have a give up attitude, and has enough spunk to get back to the top. Now, I do believe he is through winning championships, but winning is very doable thing for the 2-time Brickyard 400 winner.
I would like to finish by saying that personally I believe Stewart winning wouldn't just be great for him personally, but also great for the sport. When the incident occurred nearly a year ago, NASCAR lost one of its stars, not physically but mentally. Stewart made the sport better with his never give up attitude, and raw talent. A nice temper added flare to a sport that can indeed go stale at times. As a guy that has never been a #1 fan of Tony Stewart, I myself would like to see the #14 team find victory lane before the end of the season.
Well, there you have it! Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think on the situation!