KANNAPOLIS, N.C.– Go Fish. It’s a classic childhood card game requiring its participants to collect as many piles of cards as possible to determine a winner.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), prefers the more literal sense of the phrase “go fish”. Together with Bass Pro Shops, America’s most popular outdoor retailer, Stewart is encouraging fans to go fish as he readies for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
“Gone Fishing” is a nationwide campaign Bass Pro Shops is using to encourage people to get outdoors and simply go fish. As part of the “Gone Fishing” movement, Bass Pro Shops will host in-store seminars and sweepstakes activities in an effort to support and encourage fishing, conservation and outdoor activities for kids and families.
An enthusiastic outdoorsman himself, Stewart has spent numerous hours strategically reading the water and casting a baited hook into the homes of largemouth bass. This weekend at Michigan, Stewart aims to apply the same strategy as he fishes for a win.
Entering the state’s Irish Hills region, Stewart is 28th in the championship point standings with a sixth-place finish in April at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway being his best finish thus far. While Stewart has found himself a victim of circumstance on a number of occasions, it’s still unfamiliar territory for the three-time Sprint Cup champion. A little on-track angling this weekend on the 2-mile, D-shaped oval could result in the catch Stewart has been fishing for this season, and provide a springboard to the kind of consistency that has earned him 48 career victories.
Of those 48 wins, only one has come at Michigan. It was June 2000 when Stewart started 28th and rallied his way to the front to lead 13 laps and take the victory. But despite that lone victory in 30 career Sprint Cup starts at Michigan, Stewart has enjoyed a strong level of consistency in the form of 12 top-fives and 20 top-10s, giving him an average finish of 11.7. And of those 12 top-fives, eight have been results of third or better.
Should Stewart’s on-track trawling exploits prove successful this weekend in Michigan, there will be no need to catch and release. After reeling in the big one, Stewart will make it a keeper.
TONY STEWART, Driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
You’re an avid outdoorsman, but how did you first come to appreciate all the outdoors has to offer?
“I spend more time fishing than I do the hunting. I had only been fishing a few times until I had a roommate that really turned me on to trout fishing. Now it’s literally something I do whenever I have the chance. We have a pretty big pond back in Indiana that we keep stocked, and while we mostly put back what we catch, we do have to keep some. We have to do that in order to maintain the conservation aspects to manage the population. But it’s something I enjoy and it’s an example of how the Bass Pro Shops sponsorship is more than just logos on the car for us. We – and by that I mean a lot of the people at Stewart-Haas Racing – are their customers.”
What do you do to get others interested in the outdoors and, specifically, fishing?
“At my place in Indiana, I’ve got an eight-and-a-half acre lake, and when we have people over, we’ve got everything from beginner rods to rods we'd use on the tour. If there are people fishing for the first time, we know what kind of fish to take them so that it makes it easy for them and gives them an opportunity to have a good time. You get somebody hooked into their first four-pound bass and fight a fish like that, it’s amazing to see the look on their face.”
It’s been a few years since Michigan was repaved. How much do you think the track will have changed from last year?
“It’s hard to say, but it should be better. That first year, once it cleaned off, it seemed like the track got to be pretty good. It was still a relatively one-groove track but it got better as the weekend went on. It was even better last year and, really, we should see more of the same, even with the higher speeds. Hopefully, the racetrack will continue on that path and continue to widen out. It was a lot racier than I thought it would be right off the bat, and it’s just been getting better, so I’m anticipating it’s going to be even better when we get back on it this weekend with our Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy.”
What kind of opportunity does Michigan present?
“With the repave a couple years ago, it’s just lightning fast. And the groove is getting wider and wider so it’s easier to race there. It’s definitely just a fast, fast racetrack. We talk about momentum. Momentum is a huge deal there. You carry so much speed to the turns, and the corners are so long and so round, you have to be very smooth there.”
Father’s Day weekend actually falls on the off-week this year. Do you have any particular racing memories of you and your dad?
“Probably the first 10 years of my life in racing, we raced together with our go-karts. I would say probably our greatest memory is the first Grand Nationals that we went to in Iowa together. We won out there, and I think it was about 4 o’clock in the morning when we finally finished. I was 12 years old, so it was way past my bedtime, but it was the first time I had seen that much excitement in my father’s face. I guess he realized more at the time what we had accomplished than what I realized had happened.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine