Tony Stewart talks about his Stewart -Haas Racing success at Sonoma Raceway and the strategy of the Joe Gibbs Racing teams
RELATED: Full race results " Drivers tell Stewart tales " All of Stewart's 49 wins HOMESTEAD, Fla. – It was a loose and laughing Tony Stewart who climbed behind the wheel of the No. 14 Chevrolet for the last time Sunday, an illustrious driving career coming to an end here in sunny South Florida. Seventeen years, nine months and six days after Stewart made his premier series debut, the Indiana born and bred racer made his final start as a full-time NASCAR competitor, finishing 22nd in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Days from now, the final result won't be recalled. No one remembers who finished second, no one remembers who finished 22nd. Stewart's NASCAR career, though, won't be forgotten. Three championships, 49 wins, 308 top-10s, 15 poles. One of the best pure racers ever to grip a steering wheel. "I've been looking forward to this day," a composed Stewart said afterward, surrounded by media as he leaned against his Stewart -Haas Racing entry on pit road. "If I was never coming to a NASCAR race again I would feel much different and be a lot more emotional. But I'm going to be in Daytona in I don't know how many more weeks from now … I'll be there just in a different capacity. I've been ready to make a change and that starts now."
RELATED: Stewart shows off new 'drag' package Tony Stewart takes Halloween seriously. We saw this last year when the Stewart -Haas Racing driver stole the show at a costume party with his midriff-revealing, scandalous Carmen Miranda-inspired get-up. Yep!!! I lost... @TonyStewart wins pic.twitter.com/HqmkGpukRH — Tony Gibson (@TonyOldman41) October 28, 2015 Naturally, with the bar set so high (low?) after last year's showing, we were pretty stoked to see what "Smoke" had in store for 2016. He didn't disappoint, but guess what? He actually didn't dress like a woman this time! We were a close 2nd pic.twitter.com/AGOHgkqz4h — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) October 27, 2016 Stewart's "Day of the Dead" look is pretty impressive, but as you can see, he took home second place in the costume contest -- so who won first? Well it was close, but there is a new champion at Pumpkinpaloosa. @DylanSmith34 aka Catwoman. I was a close 2nd pic.twitter.com/8JUvCV0XBY — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) October 27, 2016 That'd be NASCAR Next driver Dylan Smith, who may someday be the next big thing, but is already NASCAR's newest cross-dresser.
MORE: '14 days of Smoke' tribute " Buy tickets for Miami STORE: Stewart commemorative Homestead shirts One more race, one final paint scheme. Stewart -Haas Racing revealed Wednesday the special No. 14 Chevrolet that driver and co-owner Tony Stewart will pilot Sunday in Miami for what is expected to be his last race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. A tribute video (watch it below) shows the details. "Always a Racer, Forever a Champion" on the hood. A list of his 49 career Sprint Cup Series wins on the back. And the signature of every Stewart -Haas Racing employee all over the quarter panels. Take one final ride with @TonyStewart this Sunday at @HomesteadMiami . #AlwaysRac14g pic.twitter.com/3ml67pcxIg — Stewart -Haas Racing (@StewartHaasRcng) November 16, 2016 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Earnhardt Jr . again found himself in need of a substitute driver. Tony Stewart was there to answer the call. Earnhardt Jr. was at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday for a Dale Jr. Foundation charity ride-along event. The problem: Earnhardt Jr. has not been cleared to drive by his doctors as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms. The event raises "quite a bit of money," Junior said in a video posted to Twitter. Never fear, 'Smoke' is here. The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion volunteered to fill the seat so Tuesday's event could go off without a hitch. Earnhardt Jr. posted the thank-you video below, calling Stewart a "good dude" for filling in. Thanks @TonyStewart pic.twitter.com/yhcFaP5fOg — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) October 5, 2016 What friends do for friends pic.twitter.com/jIGLS6LdU9 — Eddie Jarvis (@Eddiejgo14) October 5, 2016 &lt;/p&gt;
MORE: Always a racer, forever a champion There are two weeks remaining in Tony Stewart 's full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, and NASCAR.com will help fans honor the man called "Smoke" through the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . We'll celebrate with a daily look at some of Stewart's career highlights over the next 13 days, leading up to the Nov. 20 race. You can bet his conquests at Homestead and Indianapolis are in the mix, and so are many more indelible moments. Even better, fans can join the dialogue by tweeting their favorite memories using the #AlwaysRac14g hashtag, and the top tweets will be displayed at nascar.com/smoke -- also where the video tributes will live. Check back daily to see another of Stewart's career highlights.
To see the full slideshow of Tony Stewart 's 2016 season, please click here .
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman quizzes Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson and three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart on their Chase knowledge.
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Martinsville " Full schedule Clint Bowyer's smiling again, making jokes and most importantly, repositioning himself back among NASCAR's group of race favorites. Since taking over the No. 14 Mobil 1 Ford for retired NASCAR champion Tony Stewart , Bowyer's reeling off the best finishes he's had in two years -- including a season-best third-place finish at California's Auto Club Speedway last week. Things are looking up for the 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series runner-up. One of the brightest personalities in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garage, Bowyer's high wattage presence was noticeably dimmed a bit in 2016 driving for an under-funded, under-achieving team as he waited -- under contract -- for his seat in the 2011 championship-winning No. 14 upon his friend Stewart's retirement. With only three top 10s compared to 13 finishes of 25th or worse last year, Bowyer was clearly taking one for the team and doesn't like to look back, only forward. RELATED: Bowyer's career statistics " See how Bowyer got ready for Daytona Other than maybe championship-winning Jimmie Johnson, there was no one more ready for the final checkered flag at Homestead. As far as Bowyer was concerned, legitimately high expectations were reset immediately. And that's the mode of operation now. "It's been an OK start to the year," Bowyer said last weekend before his top-three California finish. " Obviously, you always want to be better. It's solid, but we've got to get into the top 10. This is a top-10 organization and race team, and anything less than that needs to improve." He made good on that demand 24 hours later with a hard-fought, well-raced showing in Southern California. Asked later what his boss Stewart had to say about the uptick, Bowyer just grinned, "Good job." RELATED: Heck, yeah! Bowyer's back But, he clarified, " Tony wins a lot of races. He's won a lot of races. Anything less than a win, you know ... he expects that. And I love that about Tony . "You know, obviously I know he's proud. He was happy with that. But that's what you want in an owner. To have that instilled in everything, in your DNA, I mean, this is the way I was raised. Anything else but a win is a bad day. You are miserable with anything less than that. "It's just the way we're wired as a race car driver from 5 years old and on. The problem is, is everybody else on that racetrack is wired the same way. So there's really only one guy happy and everybody else is pissed at the end of the day, is what it boils down to." All indications are that it's been a great fit for Bowyer at Stewart -Haas, and that has provided another element of confidence to boost Bowyer's expectations. He was teammates with Kevin Harvick at Richard Childress Racing early in his career and is longtime friends with Stewart , making this transition easier off-track. The translation, he expects, is high quality on-track. "I love the atmosphere, the culture, the people, they're just racers,’’ Bowyer said. "There's no fluff and buff, no smoke and mirrors. There's just racers who grew up doing what I do. Even the engineers seem like they have a racing background. Nowadays you'll meet engineers who never were a part of it, just extremely intelligent. Seems like they're all in it to win it and that goes all the way from the tire changers to the top. It's all you can ask for." Given the top-level equipment, proven team and fresh start, Bowyer reiterated last weekend that he fully expects to win a race this season, perhaps several. It's a better talking point, a legitimate goal and overall quality chance to remind everyone that he's championship-caliber. Title-worthy. His eight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wins have come on all kinds of tracks from the Sonoma, California, road course to the Talladega Superspeedway to the Richmond short track and Charlotte 1.5-miler. There's no doubt what Bowyer can do. It's just getting back in the saddle again, so to speak. And on a fast horse. "It's just the opportunity you've been waiting on," Bowyer said. "Everybody knows the situation. You know, this opportunity, this is something I signed up for a year and a half ago. I've been champing at the bit to be with an organization like this, to have an army of people behind you like this, the teammates, the sponsors we have, the manufacturer in Ford, all of that. "It's the total package at Stewart ‑ Haas Racing, which is why they've won a championship and win all these races that we see. That's what you thrive to be a part of. "Finally got my opportunity to be there." And he's making good.
Competitors and friends give thanks to retiring Tony Stewart at the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Awards Banquet.