For years, I've criticized Tony Stewart for his post-victory fence climbing. I saw it as showboating, and I didn't like it. I also thought Tony was a bit long in the tooth and big in the rear for so much physical exertion.
Well, Stewart finally admitted Saturday night that he's "too old and fat" to be climbing fences.
The thing is, Stewart is obviously not too old and fat to win races. And if you ask Stewart, winning races is all that matters.
Stewart took a big one Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., winning the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race and snagging his first win as driver/owner of Stewart-Haas Racing.
Manchester native Troy Welty, who works on the No. 14 team as the "underneath guy" and also as eighth man on the pit crew, has been to victory lane working for the No. 07 of Clint Bowyer. But Saturday night, it was different.
"It was a relief," Welty said. "We've been doing really well and I hate to complain about top-five and top-10 finishes, but we were getting so close. So it was a relief that we finally got our win. And even though it wasn't a points race, it was still a really big win on the NASCAR circuit. I'm really happy for our team and for what we've accomplished in a short amount of time. It's certainly something to be proud of."
Welty said he was occupied with technical inspection until after midnight Saturday, and then celebrated with the team in the Home Depot motor home at the track, finally turning in around 2:30 a.
Welty said Stewart is supporting the York County Racing Club in its efforts to raise money for a new truck, offering chances for a meet-and-greet with Stewart, two pre-race garage passes and two grandstand seats to the Sept. 27 race at Dover International Speedway. A separate drawing for a Simpson helmet autographed by Stewart is also offered in support of the local club. Details can be found online at ycrc.org.
Welty laughed at Stewart's refusal to scale the fence Saturday. And it didn't matter, since the crew, including Welty, made the climb.
"Considering I'm only a year younger than Tony, yeah, I was one of the oldest guys to climb the fence. But I climbed it," he said. "You don't get to do that every day. It's something I've seen other teams do and thought 'someday I hope I get to do that.' And so when I had the chance to do it, I was definitely going to do it."
With Stewart a favorite going into this weekend's Coca Cola 600, Welty is hoping for another trip to victory lane.
And maybe another shot at that fence.
-- Ellen Siska writes about NASCAR for The York Dispatch. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog, "Pitting Outside the Box," at the Blogzone at yorkdispatch.com.