Tony Stewart broke the contract within a month due to his love of dirt racing
Tony Stewart is now a retired NASCAR driver who’s an inductee in the 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame class.
In 1999, he made his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series will Joe Gibbs Racing. On his 25th race, he claimed his first win at Richmond Raceway before picking up two more at the end of the season.
By 2002, Stewart claimed the NASCAR Cup Series championship in the No. 20 machine.
In 2009, Stewart parted ways with Joe Gibbs as he went on to start his own team. He ran as an owner-driver until the end of his career in 2016.
He claimed 49 wins of the 618 events. Joe Gibbs remains the only owner that Stewart ever drove for in the Cup Series.
Joe Gibbs had to chase down Tony Stewart to sign him to NASCAR
Gibbs says, “I was chasing him all over the place, trying to get him signed. I got tell this…”
Tony Stewart: “Do you really have to tell this?”
JG continues with a smile anyway as Stewart shakes his head: “I couldn’t find him lost of times. I would call the girlfriend.”
“About the 3rd time that I called the girlfriend. She goes, ‘That no good, rotten. Don’t you ever call this house again.’ I hung up, that one’s done.”
Stewart: “We were ready to hold auditions again. It was time.”
Joe Gibbs recalls contract negotiations with Tony Stewart
Eventually, Joe Gibbs was able to get a hold of Stewart. In 1998, he was signed to drive part-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Starting off in the Xfinity Series was Stewart’s decision. Stewart stated to Gibbs during signing, “I’m not going to make mistakes in front of people I respect.”
“The years that we had with Tony are some of the best. I mean, they’ll always be in my mind. Some of the stories and some of the things that happened,” Joe Gibbs stated.
“From the very first time. We sat down with him in Indy. It was me and Don Meredith. He sat there and negotiated his entire contract, with just him.”
Tony Stewart was in his early 20’s at the time of this meeting. Meanwhile, Joe Gibbs had attorney’s on and off the phone on his end.
“He said, ‘Nope, I’m not going to do that. I’ll do this, I’ll do that.’ “
“We went through the entire thing. When we finished it, I still remember the discussion we had because it stick vividly in my mind.”
Tony Stewart required dirt racing in his contract
Many NASCAR team owners won’t allow their multi-million dollar drivers to run dirt tracks.
Others team owners have placed limits on the number of events, such is the case with Kyle Larson and Chip Ganassi.
But, dirt is in Stewart’s blood. And there’s not a more dangerous machine out there than a fire-breathing dirt sprint car.
Stewart has always remained on the dirt, throughout his career. Several sprint car crashes paused his career due to injuries. Like the flip in 2013 and again in 2016.
Gibbs continued, “He said, ‘Now, the only thing I want to race is dirt late models. Yeah, you can’t get hurt in those.’ “
“No problem, dirt late models. I think within one month he was in winged-whatever. And I never got him out of it,” Gibbs concluded with a laugh.
Stewart recalled, “I said, ‘Everything looks good except one thing. I want to drive the Top Fuel car at the US Nationals next year too.’ Immediately, his head started spinning off.”
Stewart was only joking about the drag car.