Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Tony Stewart Quietly Helping Drivers In Need

From --

"Tony Stewart is one of several top drivers who say they would contribute money from their own pockets if NASCAR officials established a fund to help retired drivers. Stewart isn't waiting for them to act.

Since joining NASCAR's top series in 1999, Stewart quietly has handed out money to lesser-known racers who have fallen on hard times. It's his attempt to pay forward the favors the racing community granted him early in his career.

"When I started running midgets and sprint cars full time, that was my job," Stewart said. ''But there's no health benefits. If you get hurt, you're (done), basically. So a $5,000 hospital bill for one of these guys, it could take you three weeks to try to make that. Let alone you've got to have your travel costs still, you've got to pay your rent, make your groceries.''

The two-time Cup champion also donates memorabilia to fundraising auctions through the foundation.

Still, sometimes when Stewart hears about a driver in need, he simply handles it himself, whether it's leaning on a safety equipment manufacturer to replace a grass-roots racer's cracked helmet for free or paying off a four-figure medical bill.

Stewart also has provided financial help to Red Farmer, a member of racing's famed "Alabama Gang" who survived Davey Allison's fatal helicopter crash in 1993 and still tries to make money racing short tracks in his 70s.

"Red's like a family member to us, and it's hard for him sometimes to go race," Stewart said. ''And every now and then, a couple bucks here and there is helping him get to the racetrack. That's the stuff that makes it worthwhile for us."

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