The house has the unlived-in feel of an extended-stay hotel, mostly because, like his father, Nelson, a former medical-supply salesman, Stewart spends much of the year on the road. "Put it in a book."Stewart was born on May 20th, 1971, in Columbus, a small blue-collar suburb south of Indianapolis.
Aside from some dirt-track racing newsweeklies and copies of Healthy Pet, there's no reading material. When he was five years old, his father bought him an old go-cart.
"He's been an asshole at times."Stewart barges into the mobile office at the back of the Home Depot hauler where Greg Zipadelli, the only NASCAR crew chief he's ever had, is waiting to debrief him. As we take off over the Phoenix Speedway, Stewart opens a box containing piping-hot Papa John's pizza and takes a is Tony Stewart's 13th year in NASCAR, and at 37 he remains the most magnetic driver in the sport, even if he isn't always the most successful. Over the years, he has thrown his gloves at Kenny Irwin, had a shoving match with Robby Gordon, been accused of assaulting a fan in Bristol, Tennessee (but not indicted), knocked the headphones off a track official at a midget race, kicked a reporter's tape recorder (and apologetically replaced it), punched a photographer (and later befriended him), and told off NASCAR officials after they forced him to wear a helmet restraint."Tony represents what made this sport," says Hunter. Recently, Stewart dropped a bombshell when he announced he was leaving his employer, the deep-pocketed Joe Gibbs Racing, to start his own team in 2009.At a time when the .5 billion industry of NASCAR has corporatized and spawned a generation of technically gifted, clean-cut racers like Johnson and Jeff Gordon, Stewart — or "Smoke," as he's called in the back rooms — is a throwback to racing's older era of bootleggers and brawlers. Haas CNC Racing, a much smaller outfit that has never won a race and whose principal owner, Gene Haas, is serving two years in prison for tax fraud, offered Stewart a free 50 percent stake in its million organization. The new team is called Stewart-Haas Racing, and it's the biggest move of Stewart's career. Stewart will no longer have the well-regarded Zipadelli in his ear or the Home Depot logo decorating everything in his sightline. I got an edge."Of course, the switch raises a delicious question.“But I don’t think [Tony] would have intentionally hit him.Look, I don’t like him personally, but I don’t think he’s capable of murder.” Still, she says, “He does have a hot head and he needs to go to anger management!Mike Arning, Stewart's PR rep, fixer and constant aide-de-camp, walks briskly beside his client, hoping to get Stewart out of town without a TV camera catching him saying something he'll regret. He sets down a kitty caddy containing Wylie and Wyatt, his mewling Tonkinese cats. We need different flavors."Not everyone enjoys Stewart's act, however. But 2008 has been a tough season — a "nightmare," he calls it — riddled with crashes, mechanical failures and bad-luck endings.
Arning is not always successful."Tony will at times do or say things that make our skin crawl," says Jim Hunter, a NASCAR vice president who has been with the sport for 40 years. Stewart used to travel with a monkey named Mojo, but when Mojo grew into adolescence — "We realized he was exactly the wrong breed to have as a pet" — Stewart donated him to the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky. You never knew what Junior Johnson was going to say, but if he says it, you know he believes it. Racing blogs burble with invective — "a big orange truckload of crybaby," "fat, arrogant punk-ass," "the biggest douche bag in sports." Before each race, when drivers ride around the track on the backs of pickup trucks and wave at the crowds, none are greeted with so thick a barrage of hate as Stewart. He's not even the top racer on his team this season — he's been surpassed by Kyle Busch, who is currently enjoying a Tiger Woods-like run of dominance in NASCAR.
“He did not treat her right, not at all.” Even worse, Kirk claims, he had a dark side. ’” Stewart “has a terrible temper,” she continues, “which I saw several times.” During one family dinner at a Mexican restaurant, she claims, “He got smart with me …
“He could be nice enough when he wanted to be, but he also had a mean streak,” Kirk says. He got mad at me all the time.” PHOTOS: What Happened Here? So, I said something back to him and he jumped up and took off like a bat out of hell.
Celebrity Deaths That Remain A Mystery “Tony would say to me, ‘I’m a multi-millionaire! He drove off in my daughter’s car and left us there!
I deserve respect, and you should treat me like that! ” Still, despite the fact that Kirk claims to have seen Stewart’s dark side, she doesn’t believe he’s at fault for Ward’s death on Saturday night in New York.
With his prodigious stomach, permanent stubble and more than occasional public outbursts, Stewart reminds the faithful of scruffier icons like Bobby Allison, Junior Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Sr. And the recent history of owner-driver experiments is dodgy at best. In the past, when Stewart had one of his famous meltdowns, there was always a staffer or executive happy to humor him, absorb the anger and pick up the pieces for one of the sport's great racers.