Stewart Produces Another Successful 'Smoke Show' Fundraiser For Speedway Children's Charities-Texas Chapter
Less than 24 hours after posting a 10th-place finish at Pocono, two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart found himself in the cockpit again Tuesday but his objectives were not the pursuit of victory or maintaining his points lead.
He had two other significant objectives in mind upon his arrival at Texas Motor Speedway and he was triumphant in both. Stewart produced another highly successful fund-raising event for Speedway Children's Charities-Texas Chapter with his second annual "Smoke Show" fantasy camp and a truly memorable day for an injured military hero.
Stewart raised $212,000 for SCC with his efforts as host of the "Smoke Show" and making it the second-best, single-day grossing event in the history of the chapter. It will rank only behind last year's inaugural "Smoke Show," where Stewart raised $262,000 from the event.
More than two dozen participants had the opportunity to spend some quality time with Stewart, enjoy the thrill of running laps in a Team Texas stock car around Texas Motor Speedway and also get the rare treat of an exciting two-seater ride with him after their own driving sessions. The "Smoke Show" culminated with an evening dinner at The Speedway Club, Q&A with Stewart and live auction of several Stewart memorabilia items.
"It was awesome to be able to raise over $250,000 last year," Stewart said. "It was a no-brainer that we wanted to come back and do this again this year. Being able to support Speedway Children's Charities is something we're proud of to be able to help Texas-area children. This is a day out of our schedule that we really enjoy.
"It's cool to be able to bring these people in for a day and show them what a full day of being a race car driver is like. They realize it's going to a great cause and that it's for charity. You can go to a lot of different driving schools, but there's nowhere you can go and go through the experience like Texas Motor Speedway gives them here with the ‘Smoke Show.' They get to go into Victory Lane and shoot the six shooters and wear the cowboy hat and everything just like we do. Any time the speedway has wanted to do something we've always been the first one to jump on board with it."
While in the midst of playing host to his "Smoke Show" guests, Stewart carved out some time for U.S. Army Specialist Brett Wolf, of Weatherford, Texas. Wolf was severely injured Sept. 11, 2007, in South Kirkuk, Iraq when the minesweeper he was driving for the 25th U.S. Infantry struck a large bomb. The blast forced him to have both legs amputated above the knee while also sustaining serious injuries to his right arm, abdomen and face.
Stewart was planning on kicking off Texas Motor Speedway's "Speeding To Help" community outreach program for this year by joining the speedway staff Wednesday to assist in the Homes For Our Troops project for Wolf. Homes For Our Troops, a non-profit organization that assists severely injured soldiers by completely funding the building a new home or adapting an existing one for handicapped accessibility, will begin constructing a new home in Weatherford for the 25-year-old Wolf and his wife, Kelly.
A schedule conflict nixed the home site visit for Stewart, so he invited the Wolfs as his special guests to the "Smoke Show." He provided Wolf, an avid NASCAR and Stewart fan, with a two-seater ride around "The Great American Speedway!" and then had Wolf, along with Kelly and some of their immediate family, join him for the event dinner.
"To go what he's gone through and to battle back from it, it's a lot more impressive than what we do,' Stewart said. "Every time I see a soldier that's been injured the first thing they want to do is get going again and they're tough. When we've had a bad day we think we've got it bad and these guys have battled through a lot worse than what we'll ever go through. They're an inspiration to us for sure.
"It's great to be able to come out here and give him a ride like this, especially because he's a fan. And knowing what kind of week he's having with his house being built, it's just cool to be a part of that and be associated with his big week."
Wolf was quite appreciative of Stewart's invite and in particular the two-seater ride.
"I've been a fan of Tony for a while. It's awesome to be able to be here and ride in his car and meet him," Wolf said. "I thought we were going to tackle the wall a couple of times! But it was amazing. I really appreciate the opportunity. It means a lot to me. I won't forget it, that's for sure."
Stewart got a greater appreciation and understanding of soldiers and their sacrifices when Stewart-Haas brought the U.S. Army on board this season as a sponsor on teammate Ryan Newman's car.
"Once we got our partnership with the Army, you start realizing more and more what these soldiers go through," Stewart said. "I don't think society and I don't think our country really truly understands what these soldiers go through. Whether you're pro war or against war, when you meet these people you realize it's not about what you believe in anymore. It's about these people that are defending our country. Whether the cause is right or wrong, these people still go and they serve their country and they go through huge sacrifices to make sure that were able to do things like we are today."
Stewart gave Wolf a "Smoke Show" backpack that included Texas Motor Speedway apparel and a pair of Victory Lane Club tickets to the Nov. 8 Dickies 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race. But Stewart was not done with his generosity. Stewart personally bid on a piece of signed sheet metal from his No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Sprint Cup car during the auction that he won for $15,000 and presented it to the Wolfs as a "housewarming" gift.
More than two dozen TMS staff members will head to Weatherford on Wednesday to assist Homes For Our Troops as the opening project of the speedway's "Speeding To Help" community outreach initiatives. TMS will help with the organization and construction of a new, specialized home for the Wolfs during the first of the three-day-long build. Home For Our Troops will start with opening ceremonies and raising the first wall at 8:30 a.m. CT. Wolf will be taken to the site of his home in a TMS pace car and escorted by the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group at 10 a.m. The first day of the build will go until 1 p.m.