When NASCAR released its list of the 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, Tony Stewart was still a year away from making his Cup Series debut. Now, as NASCAR celebrates 75 years, the sanctioning body is adding 25 drivers to that special club of greats. Given his iconic accomplishments in NASCAR's highest level, it was pretty much a no-brainer that Stewart would be included. But, as he discovered last weekend, the 51-year-old Indiana native will officially be the 51st name on the list of legends.
During the pre-race broadcast for Sunday's Food City Dirt Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton informed Stewart that he would be the first of the 25 new additions to NASCAR's Greatest Drivers list. What a special moment for Smoke!
Ahead of the newsworthy announcement, Helton described the historical significance behind the exclusive list that Stewart was soon to become a member of.
"Everybody knows we are celebrating our 75th anniversary, and you can't do that without celebrating the 75 greatest drivers," Helton said. "In 1998, we picked 50, and there's a group of folks inside the industry who picked 25 to add to that list. And we're going to start celebrating them for the next five weeks leading into Darlington, and we'll have all 25 notified and have a big shindig in Darlington around the 75 Greatest Drivers in NASCAR. But, it's an honor tonight, Tony, to let you in on the fact that you're one of our 25 and now one of our 75 Greatest Drivers."
You can tell from Stewart's genuine reaction that he was beyond thrilled to join the ranks of NASCAR's most beloved legends.
"It's a huge honor," Stewart said after receiving the news. "I mean, you think of all the drivers in 75 years that have competed in the NASCAR Cup Series. It's truly an honor just to be a part of that category in that group of people. There's a lot of drivers in there that I've looked up to for a long time and still look up to."
During his nearly 20-year career in the Cup Series, Stewart racked up a number of accolades that make him worthy of his place alongside the greatest to ever step foot behind the wheel of a stock car. He made his mark with his Rookie of the Year campaign in 1999, and solidified his dominance by amassing 49 wins, 308 top-10 finishes, three championships, and an eventual spot in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Tony Stewart has further added to his legend status with his accomplishments as a Cup Series owner. To date, he has 69 Cup wins and two championships as the co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing.
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