Stewart will host his 12th âSmoke Showâ next Wednesday, and sees no reason to stop doing it for the next dozen years or longer.
âIf they do it 20 more years, Iâll be there 20 more years because I really have a passion for what weâve done these first 12,â Stewart said in a recent phone interview. âI have a lot of fun doing it. I know it raises a lot of money and I know it helps a lot of people. At the end of the day, thatâs the main reason we do it.â
Participants of the âSmoke Showâ go through a full race-day experience, including driving themselves as well as a three-lap ride along with Stewart. For Stewart, itâs fun to see familiar faces who have become regulars at the event as well as newcomers experiencing racing at its highest level for the first time.
âThereâs nothing like it,â Stewart said. âThereâs all kinds of driving schools and driving experiences that they can do, but to come here and have the attention to detail that Texas Motor Speedway puts into this program â giving them the entire day of what itâs like to be a driver for a whole day is something that nobody else can give them.â
Stewart, the only driver who has won an IndyCar and NASCAR Cup championship, went on to discuss a number of other topics from the âSmoke Showâ to being inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame later this year to his current race schedule:
On the biggest misconception fans have of driving a stock car: âThey think itâs a lot easier than it is when they get in the car. They canât understand how we can run so close to each other, let alone that close to the wall, for 325 laps. You come off the corner twice a lap and go out to that wall, that scares them to death. And then to think we do that in traffic and get even closer to each other than we do the wall sometimes … that just absolutely baffles people. A, the G-forces, and, b, the heat and the concentration you have to have. Theyâre mentally and physically exhausted [after 10 laps]. They just really donât understand what itâs truly like.â
On being inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame next month: âItâs a huge honor obviously, but Iâve been pretty consistent saying this: âI have mixed feelings about Hall of Fames right now.â For me, Hall of Fame stuff is kind of when your racing career is over and the hard part for me is itâs not over yet [competing on dirt tracks, etc.]. I have conflicting feelings about it, but Iâm enjoying it.
âIt does mean a lot to me. Itâs nothing you think about when youâre a driver. Itâs not your aspirations while youâre driving to be in the Hall of Fame. When youâre a driver, all you want to do is win races and try to win championships.â
On if he has to remind fans heâs still racing on dirt tracks: â[Fans say] we miss seeing you behind the wheel, but youâre going to the wrong places. Iâm racing 100 races a year still. You just have to watch me in a different car. It frustrates me cause itâs like, âIf you really miss me that much, go watch a dirt race.â Watch how these guys got to where they are now. Watch how Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell got there. Go to a race and come watch me. You make the effort to go watch a NASCAR race, come to a short-track race.â
On Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racingâs top driver in NASCAR championship contention: âItâs shaping up to be the same classic battle of the âBig Threeâ like last year. Obviously Martin [Truex Jr.] is running well. Kyle [Busch] is running well and Kevinâs running well. It hasnât been the season up to this point that weâve been looking for. At the same time, I think Iâve seen some things in the last four or five weeks that makes me feel like weâre starting to gain some momentum at the right time.
âI think Martinâs probably the guy right now thatâs really on top of everything, not just because heâs won [at Las Vegas and Richmond last month]. That team is really hitting their stride right now. Weâre going to have to be perfect the rest of the season. This is a time where you canât make mistakes. I feel confident that Kevinâs going to get to that Final Four, but weâre going to have to make sure in the next three or four races weâre getting locked in.â
TMSâ fall race weekend is Oct. 31-Nov. 3, highlighted with the AAA Texas 500 on Nov. 3. Shooter Jennings will perform the pre-race show on Nov. 3. Tickets for the races are available through the trackâs website or by calling 817-215-8500.