Tony Stewart Like an Old Pair of Tennis Shoes

After missing the final 15 races of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with a broken right leg, Tony Stewart climbed back in his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS last week at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway without missing a beat.

He drove in three races – the Sprint Unlimited, Budweiser Duel and Daytona 500 – and each time he sat behind the wheel, Stewart likened the comfort of his seat to an old pair of tennis shoes.

With Daytona behind Stewart and Phoenix International Raceway next up for the three-time Sprint Cup champion, Stewart ratchets up his comfort level.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver and owner has been racing and winning at Phoenix since 1993. In the Sprint Cup Series alone, Stewart has scored a win, eight top-fives, 12 top-10s and has led a total of 555 laps in 23 career starts – all while being a model of consistency, completing all but 14 of an available 7,257 laps for a completion rate of 99.8 percent. And that’s only a small portion of Stewart’s resume at the 1-mile oval.

In addition to Sprint Cup cars, Stewart has made laps at Phoenix in NASCAR Nationwide Series cars, Indy cars, Supermodifieds and USAC Midget and Silver Crown cars. There isn’t another driver on the circuit who has logged more laps at Phoenix in as many different cars.

Those first laps for Stewart came at the famed Copper World Classic in the 1993 season-opener for USAC’s Silver Crown division. Stewart qualified second to Davey Hamilton – a former IndyCar veteran – and led 31 of the 50 laps before finishing second to Mike Bliss – the 2003 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion. The $3,500 payday for his second-place effort made eight-hour days at $5 an hour in the cold confines of the machine shop where Stewart worked in Columbus, Ind., seem unnecessary. Packing the rest of the 1993 season with Silver Crown, Sprint and Midget races across the nation, Stewart’s quick ascent up the racing ladder began.

Twenty-one years later, that ascent continues for Stewart as he comes back to Phoenix ready to resume his winning ways.