LAS VEGAS — Tony Stewart was honored for his final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and spoke candidly about his prior banquet experiences during Friday night’s annual awards ceremony at the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel, with a video tribute highlighting the sendoffs for the three-time champion.
Stewart scored a hugely-popular win at Sonoma Raceway in June that allowed him to make the Chase playoffs despite missing the first eight races of the year due to a back injury sustained in an ATV crash during the preseason.
He finished the year 15th in points and ends his career with 49 career premier series victories, 13th on the all-time wins list.
However, his priority during his opening remarks on Friday night? Rutledge Wood’s plaid suit.
“I’m gonna find out where he gets his suits and start getting some for myself,” Stewart joked to NBCSN’s Marty Snider on-stage.
Stewart reminisced about his history at the Cup banquets through the years with Snider during Friday night’s festivities, calling to mind a particular memory after his second championship season in 2005 with Joe Gibbs Racing after Snider asked if he had a favorite moment from the banquets he attended.
“I don’t know,” Stewart admitted. “I thought they were all cool … except for maybe 2005 when we had the last one at the Waldorf (Astoria in New York) and I don’t know who booked the guy, but he was in Spandex and swinging over the top of me during the banquet, at one point. But all of them were pretty cool.”
Snider then reminded Stewart that he “can still get called to the trailer as an owner.”
“I have no doubt it’ll happen. It’s just a matter of time.”
Snider closed the first portion of Stewart’s stage time by asking him what his most memorable moment from his final full-time season was. The three-time champion circled the seconds just prior to his last on-track appearance at Homestead-Miami Speedway as the highlight.
“I’d say, honestly, it had to be going down pit road at Homestead to start the race and seeing all the crew guys that came out. Sending me off that way … that’s the way you want to go out. I have a lot of respect for all those teams and all those crew guys, and to have all of them come out like that really meant a lot.”
Stewart was introduced for his final full speech by rock and roll icon and Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder, who received a surprise donation of $1.8 million on Stewart’s behalf (courtesy of the motorsports industry) for the EB Research Partnership before Stewart took the podium for the last time as a driver.
Once there, it was back to vintage ‘Smoke’ for one final, humor-filled bonanza.
“I thought I was done when I answered two questions up here earlier,” Stewart laughed. “I said, ‘Man, this is great.’ After 17 years … the 18th year I didn’t have to write a speech, but I’m honored and humbled to be here. It’s been a great journey and I can’t thank all the drivers enough. I loved all the comments.”