SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT FAN
The driver of the number 14 car stands 11th in the NASCAR points standing, with seven races left before the 12-driver Chase for the Cup field is set.
Dan Patrick:Did you see the tweets from Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate claiming NASCAR drivers aren't athletes?
Tony Stewart: I heard a little bit about that. Is he even a starter? Does he even play? He said he can drive 90 miles per hour?
DP:How often do you find yourself defending your honor as an athlete?
TS: Not very often. Most of those guys who feel that way, when they get a chance to actually ride in a car and see the conditions that we drive under and the g-loads we deal with, [they feel differently]. We don't have timeouts. We don't have halftime. We play the whole game. It's always interesting [to hear] somebody who doesn't know anything about our sport when they think they know what they're talking about.
DP:If Golden Tate got into your car, could you make him cry?
TS: I don't think he would cry, but I think he would realize it's a lot more physical than what he thinks it is. It's a different type of conditioning. We're not hitting guys. But [we're] sitting in a 130- or 140-degree car for 3½ hours.
DP:How much weight do you lose during a race?
TS: This time of year, probably six or eight pounds. It's all in fluids, and by the next day you've got all that weight back. You're not running, but you're in a car where you have to have your concentration on 100 percent the whole time. You're not just driving 90 miles an hour down the interstate—my mom does that every day going to work. To do it with other guys around you running 195 miles per hour takes a little bit more skill.
DP:Did you play any sports in high school?
TS: I played baseball. I wasn't the best baseball player, but I had fun doing it.
DP:Who do you think will win the Cup this year?
TS: I don't know right now. Obviously Jimmie Johnson is going to be a factor. Denny Hamlin is really close—after losing it last year, he knows what it takes to win it. Kurt Busch has been on his game. The Roush cars have been good; Carl Edwards has been on form. Jeff Gordon has been good again. I think those first two weeks of the Chase are going to set the tone about who realistically has a shot. It's shaping up to be an awesome field.
DP:Most money you ever spent on a classic car?
TS: I spent $155,000 at Barrett-Jackson [an auction house] on a '55 Chevy Nomad wagon.
DP:You still have it?
TS: Yep, and to me it's worth every penny I spent.
DP:Do you still have the Smokey and the Bandit car?
TS: If I have to get rid of my collection, that is the last car to go.
DP:So if you have to get out, you're getting out in that car?
TS: Oh, yeah. I don't drive it much. I'm so scared to put a nick in the paint. I don't want anything to happen to that car. We need to get our football player and let him ride in that thing with me. I promise you, I could change his mind.
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MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (PATRICK)
TOM DIPACE (HOWARD)
JOHN BIEVER (KOLB)
JARED C. TILTON/GETTY IMAGES FOR NASCAR (STEWART)