PIKE: A Letter To Anthony Wayne, Part III – Blind Faith

James Pike Cup, Featured, James Pike Blog, NASCAR, Staff Columns 0 Comments

So we made it to 2007, and man if there weren’t shades of 2005 written all over those Speedweeks.

You were, quite simply, dominant in the leadup to the 500. Budweiser Shootout, Gatorade Duel, Busch Series race, bam, bam, bam! And you made it look easy doing it.

More Tony Stewart gear than the 2007 500 could handle. (Pike family photo)

More Tony Stewart gear than the 2007 500 could handle. (Pike family photo)

I was ready to win this thing, finally. I brought out every single piece of Tony Stewart anything that I owned at the time. Stuck it all right on the end table by the main T.V. It was showtime.

You started off that 500 by doing the same thing you had done all week: crushing everybody. Nobody had a car better than you did that day.

Until, well…

Note to FOX: NEVER cut back to the broadcast in the middle of a wreck that massive.

That was just the best damn feeling! Naturally! To see not only your driver, but the best car out on track just lose it and wreck.

“S***”. That phrase encompasses most of my thoughts at the time. And I did watch the rest of the race, but it was all in vain.

Sure, we got Harvick winning in one of the best finishes to a 500 ever, but I look back on that day and I know who should have won that race: you. That, more than all the others, was the one that got away.

The season that followed felt relatively ho-hum by your standards as well. Not to say that there weren’t some great moments though!

Winning Indy again was fun (when is it not?), especially when the way you won it was classic you: hunting down people (with a “here, kitty kitty!” radio call that will live on for many years), and a great dedication: “This one’s for every one of those fans in the stands that pull for me every week and take all the b******* from everybody else!”

Not that I ever expected to change favorite drivers, but to hear you come out and say that on national T.V. without any fear of the ramifications that may come afterward – the response in my head was basically something along the lines of “Mmmmmhmm!”

Pucker up! Tony and crew kiss the bricks after winning at Indianapolis for the second time in 2007. (Sam Riche/Indianapolis Star photo)

Pucker up! Tony and crew kiss the bricks after winning at Indianapolis for the second time in 2007. (Sam Riche/Indianapolis Star photo)

I suppose that the win at Watkins Glen was cool as well, being that it was your first in the Car of Tomorrow (whatever good that did the series!). But it had all become a bit ho-hum.

Evidently, the ole’ ball coach felt the same way, and decided that it was time for a shake-up.

That being said, it was still weird to finally hear the rumor become the truth: that Joe Gibbs was going to Toyota in 2008.

It’s also really weird to look back on what you said in that press conference too: that you were working on a contract extension, that you were excited about the move, and that you felt “like the only way that you constantly stay ahead of the game is by putting yourselves in positions to, you know, be leaders not followers.”

How funny, looking back on it, that only one of those three would end up being true in the end.

I was definitely nervous, for sure. I didn’t know how well the whole Toyota thing would work out. But I was going to stick with y’all, because why would I go back on things now?

Continued on the next page…

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