KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina, (May 10, 2016) – Tony’s Stewart’s love of animals would make Dr. Doolittle feel like a slacker.
A pig named Porkchop greets you when you ring the doorbell at his house, and the first one out the motorhome door in the mornings at racetracks is often Max – Stewart’s German Shepherd. Both animals became internet celebrities last year when pictures of each napping with Stewart were retweeted far and wide on Twitter. Over the years, Stewart has travelled the NASCAR circuit with Tonkinese cats, small dogs, and even a Patas monkey he later moved to the Louisville Zoo after it took a few too many liberties as a roommate.
Stewart’s love for animals goes beyond just the care and feeding of his own. When the three-time champion established his charitable foundation in 2003, in addition to injured racers, he targeted ill children and at-risk animals as areas of focus.
“I’m a ‘softie’ for both,’ admits Stewart.
The stars are aligning for Stewart’s favorite causes this weekend in Delaware as he competes in Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover (Del.) International Speedway in the No. 14 Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
Stewart and the Sprint Cup driver council donated $35,000 to Autism Delaware on April 22. Artie Kempner, coordinating director for NASCAR on FOX, founded Autism Delaware with his wife Marcy in 1998. The organization has raised more than $5 million and served more than 1,000 children and adults living with autism. Fellow driver Denny Hamlin will present the check to Kempner at his Drive for Autism golf tournament Thursday in Wilmington, Delaware.
This weekend at Dover, Stewart will be flying the colors of Code 3 Associates for the first time in 2016. Code 3 Associates is a non-profit organization that specializes in animal rescue and recovery in disaster areas and has been a partner of SHR since 2012. Since launching in 1985, it’s been the mission of Code 3 Associates to provide professional disaster response for animals in need and to train individuals involved in animal-related law enforcement and emergency response to safely and effectively carry out their responsibilities to the animals and people in their communities. The organization has evolved from one unpaid volunteer to at least 75 professional responders around the country, which includes animal welfare, law enforcement, fire, EMS and veterinary specialists from the United States and Canada.
Code 3 has worked with the Tony Stewart Foundation to fund many charitable endeavors across the country.
Stewart knows there’s work to be done at “The Monster Mile” in addition to raising awareness for charitable activities.
Sunday will mark his fourth race of the 2016 season. Stewart missed the first eight after sustaining a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in a Jan. 31 all-terrain-vehicle accident. He returned to the No. 14 April 24 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, where he finished 19th. Stewart drove the first 52 laps at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on May 1 before, under doctor’s orders, turning the driving duties over to Ty Dillon, who earned a sixth-place finish – a season best for the No. 14. Last weekend at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Stewart led 12 laps – the No. 14’s first laps led this year – on his way to a 12th-place finish.
Every race matters to Stewart in 2016 as he seeks a victory and enough driver points to qualify for NASCAR’s 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup. NASCAR granted Stewart a medical waiver in April that made him eligible for the sport’s 10-race playoff. To make the Chase, Stewart will have to race his way in by winning at least once and ending NASCAR’s 26-race regular season in the top-30 in driver points. Right now, Regan Smith is in 30th place with 146 points. Stewart is 37th with 87 points.
Dover could be the just the place for Stewart to take a big step toward earning that playoff spot. His last Sprint Cup victory came at Dover in June of 2013 – driving the Code 3 Associates paint scheme. His next victory could well come at Dover, as well, if history is predictive of future results. He owns three wins, 11 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s and has led 1,075 laps in his 33 career Sprint Cup starts on the Delmarva Peninsula.
Dover this weekend will be about kids, animals and hopefully a Stewart victory.
Tony Stewart, Driver of the Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Why is Dover so difficult?
“I think, when I started running Dover, it was quite a bit different than it is now. What I like about it now is that it seems we race all over the racetrack. When we started, you were pretty much stuck around the bottom. The winner was the guy who could get his car working around the bottom. Now, guys are moving around. The guys who are still fastest are still on the bottom but, if your car is a little bit off, you can move around and not be stuck in that one spot.”
Is “The Monster Mile” the most appropriately named racetrack in NASCAR?
“I think it is the most appropriate name. You win there and you feel like you’ve conquered a monster. That racetrack can be your best friend or the track itself can be your worst enemy. When it’s going well and your car is driving well, it’s a blast. If your car isn’t right, even off a little bit, it’s a miserably long day there. That’s why it’s gratifying. That’s why, when you get that big trophy with that monster and they set your diecast car in his hand, you know you did something that week.”
What motivated you to start your foundation to help children, animals and drivers injured in the sport of motor racing?
“I’ve been lucky to pursue a racing career in its many forms. My foundation provides the vehicle to give back to others experiencing difficulty or trauma. It was easy to select children with critical illness or physical disabilities, along with animals that are at-risk as I’m a ‘softie’ for both. And, including drivers injured in the sport of motor racing was essential as I certainly know the risks involved.”
You have Code 3 Associates on your racecar at Dover. Talk about that.
“We’re honored to have Code 3 Associates as a partner with Stewart-Haas Racing. It’s nice to know there’s an organization out there that takes care of a sometimes overlooked but very important family member – your pet. Taking care of animals has always been important to me and, when we started our foundation, we made animal welfare a priority. To be able to promote the work of Code 3 Associates so that it can do even more work for people and their pets is very satisfying.”
What do you remember about your last win at Dover in 2013?
“I remember thinking that if someone had told me we were going to win, I would’ve told them they were crazy. We just didn’t have the car to win the race, but we had great pit strategy at the end. Our Code 3 Associates/Mobil 1 Chevy was solid, but we just never could get the track position to get in clean air. We changed only two tires on that last stop to get up front. The car felt a lot better up there and it didn’t seem like the guys who took four tires had a huge advantage taking off. When we noticed we were catching the leaders, we kind of got going on the bottom and made up even more time. It was just a big win for us and really gave us some momentum for the next few races.”
Dover’s surface is concrete. Do you have to alter your driving style when you race on concrete?
“I don’t think you drive it any differently but, because it is concrete, the track has a lot more bumps than an asphalt track would. There are seams in Dover’s surface and places where they’ve cut the concrete for expansion. Those sections shift and change and, every year when you go there, the bumps are a little bit different than they were the year before. Dover is a track that’s constantly changing. But it’s one of those places where you really can’t change your driving style. You still have to do the same things you always do. It’s just a matter of finding the package that’s right for that racetrack. But, other than that, you go through the same set of scenarios and challenges you would on any asphalt track – either the car is going to be tight or it’s going to be loose.”