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Tony Stewart takes over Texas Motor Speedway for 12th annual Smoke Show fundraiser for Speedway Children’s Charities

by racedaysaeditor | Posted on Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Courtesy of TMS Media Relations

FORT WORTH, Texas – What began as a Texas Motor Speedway media event in 2007 with NASCAR and INDYCAR champion Tony Stewart has transformed into a top fundraiser for Speedway Children’s Charities – Texas Chapter.

Stewart was at Texas Motor Speedway on Wednesday for the annual event which has raised more than $1.7 million. He served as driving coach for the 17 donating participants and also got behind the wheel of a two-seater car to provide those same participants an even more realistic vision of what it’s like to race around the 1.5-mile oval at competition speeds.

The following is a transcript taken from Stewart’s media availability with Stewart prior to the on-track activities beginning:

Can you tell if some of these (participants) have some natural talent, the ones who keep coming back year after year?

“It’s been fun. There’s people that have never driven any kind of a race car ever in their life and we’ve seen them get in here and they do really, really well. And then we’ve seen people that really were bad, to be perfectly honest. They were bad the first time they came and they’ve come year after year and they do, they improve each year and it’s like ‘Wow.’ It’s not any big chunks but it’s a little bit each year and, after five or six years, you see them up to speed with some of the top guys.”

Have you been approached about doing this at a track other than Texas Motor Speedway?

“No, we haven’t. I don’t want to do it at another track. I mean, doing it here is, I think … doing it once a year makes it special. I think if we did it more than once a year you’d kind of dilute it, but this was Eddie Gossage’s brainchild and his project and, you know, I’m proud that we do it here at Texas.

Any talk of doing it here on the dirt track in a sprint car?

“We haven’t talked about doing it in a sprint car. Somebody would crash then, for sure. But we have talked about maybe doing it one year on the dirt over there with a modified or a Late Model two-seater. It just would take a lot more preparation and we don’t … I don’t even know if there’s that many (Late Model) two-seaters in the country let alone have them all at the same place. But we have talked about ‘What are things we can do different and how to make it just a little bit more unique than the time before’ so that was one of the ideas that did come up one year.”

“So you can do both and have a little points championship, right?

“(Laughs) I think as soon as you start doing points championships and stuff, that’s when more cars get tore up. But it’s fun to watch everybody do this. They have fun. Some of them take it very, very seriously especially if there’s husbands and wives involved. The husbands seem to get a little more nervous than the wives do because the wives just go have fun. But they’ll outrun the husbands a lot of times and that’s why the husbands are nervous because they know they’re going to get ridiculed over it if they get beat by their wife. And the wives love beating their husbands so that’s what’s fun to watch.”

Was it your idea to make this a Speedway Children’s Charities event? How did that come about?

“This was all Eddie’s (Gossage, Texas Motor Speedway president) idea. I mean, you were here when we did the first year with the media. We just felt like it went over so well and the feedback from the media, Eddie was like, ‘why don’t we do this and make it a charity event?’ So that’s how it went that first year being a media event to what it is now and we keep getting a great turnout for it.

I threw the word philanthropy at you but, of all the things you’ve accomplished, this has to be pretty high on the list of things that make you proud.

“It’s pretty gratifying. I mean, I don’t see the end result of it at the end of the day but it’s a lot of fun. And it’s fun for me because I remember when we did it for the media and I remember how fun it was to see media members that I’d known for years, and dealt with and worked with for years, and all of a sudden them go ‘wow, we had no idea this is what it was like.’ I’ve just never forgot that. I always remember that every time. That’s what comes into my mind when I show up, there’s going to be people who are going to go ‘wow, I didn’t know it was like that.’ That’s the fun part of it. Just watching people who watch it on TV and everybody thinks it’s a lot easier than what it is when they actually get in the car.

“Everything about it is different than what they think. I mean, I don’t think there’s anything that they experience during the day that they think is what they see on TV. There are some that don’t even know how to drive with a clutch, don’t know how to drive a stick shift. ”

Then you top it off with a ride around the track to show them what it’s really like.

“When the media was here, I tried to scare the hell out of all of them. But, not necessarily. I want them (the participants) to enjoy it so I don’t want them to be scared. But I want them to feel exactly what it’s like. We run the line just like I would in the race and we don’t do anything to try to spook anybody because we want them to have fun, especially the group that runs with me the first half of the day. They have a second session. I don’t want them going out and doing something stupid that I did so I try not to teach them bad habits. But it’s fun when they go out and they make a run in the car and then get a chance to ride with us, especially the first group that rides with us, when they get a chance to go back out after riding with us, it just seems like they pick up a lot pretty quick. The group that goes in the morning doesn’t have that advantage necessarily of getting to go another round that way but it’s pretty neat.”

The AAA Texas 500 weekend kicks off with two nights of on the Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track with the Tony Stewart Presents the Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals, Oct. 31-Nov. 1. The Saturday, Nov. 2 NASCAR Xfinity Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 playoff race will take place under the lights on the 1.5-mile asphalt oval as will the eighth race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, the AAA Texas 500, Sunday Nov. 3.

For ticket or race information, please visit texasmotorspeedway.com or call the speedway ticket office at 817.215.8500. With an adult ticket purchase, accompanying tickets for children 12-and-under are $10 for the AAA Texas 500 and free for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 playoff race.

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