Aug 29, 2014, 7:06 PM EDT
They’re both 43 (2 ½ months apart), are from Indiana (Gordon is a California transplant), practically grew up together – particularly on the dirt tracks of the Midwest – and since then have been battling each other on Sprint Cup tracks for the last 16 seasons.
Gordon and all other Sprint Cup drivers experienced what it was like to race without Stewart last season, when he missed the last 15 races due to a broken leg suffered in a sprint car wreck.
But the last three races at Watkins Glen, Michigan and Bristol – all which Stewart missed in the aftermath of the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy – there was a different atmosphere without Stewart. It’s as if it just wasn’t quite NASCAR without Stewart in the No. 14.
Now that Stewart is back for this weekend’s action at Atlanta Motor Speedway, MotorSportsTalk asked Gordon what the last three races were like without Stewart – who oftentimes is the life of the party at a racetrack – around on-track or in the garage.
“He’s such a big part of this series,” Gordon told MST. “In my opinion, he’s one of the best race car drivers I’ve ever raced against. I respect him so much, and as well as the giving part and soul that the guy has.”
To illustrate Stewart’s largesse and spirit, Gordon then reflected back to a charity go-kart event in Knoxville, Iowa, that he, Stewart, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson took part in, just three days before the tragedy in upstate New York.
“Before this whole incident happened, I was racing go-karts against him in Knoxville, raising a lot of money for charity,” Gordon told MST. “He said to me, ‘Let’s do it next year. Let’s do it again. This is so awesome, we’ve got to do this next year.’
“I told him, ‘I’m in. I’ll do this for the next five years, if you want to do it.’ He goes, ‘I’m in, let’s do it.’ He’s that kind of person. But he’s also a fierce competitor. So on the track, you know that if Tony Stewart’s out there, you’re going to have to deal with him to win that race or get that position. He’s just an awesome race car driver.”
Gordon was like dozens of others who sent along well-wishes to Stewart during his self-imposed exile.
“I sent him a text as soon as I found out he was coming this week, that I’m very supportive of having him back and to know, based on watching the press conference, how emotional this has been for him,” Gordon said.
“I probably haven’t spent as much time with him as a lot of other drivers have away from the racetrack, getting to know that sarcastic side to him or that joking side to him,” Gordon said. “But the time I have spent with him, the guy’s just a good, fun-loving guy to hang out with.
“I think we’re all happy to have him back. I just hate the fact of what the circumstances were as to why he wasn’t here.”
Heading into Friday night’s qualifying session, Stewart came in having recorded the 10th-fastest speed in the practice session a few hours earlier.
“I do think the best thing for him is to be in that race car,” Gordon said of Stewart. “And don’t be surprised if he sits on the pole tonight. He was fast in his qualifying runs. So he might make quite a return.”
Follow me @JerryBonkowski
Sep 19, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
Crafton hopes to build up his slim lead in the Camping World Truck Series championship with a strong outing in tomorrow’s UNOH 175.
Sep 19, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Kenzie Ruston can relate so well to NASCAR star Danica Patrick. Just like when Patrick was working her way up through the racing ranks early on in her own career, Ruston has also had to outwork other male drivers for virtually everything she’s achieved up to now.
Sep 19, 2014, 6:03 PM EDT
Keselowski sets a new track record at New Hampshire in earning his fifth Sprint Cup pole of 2014.
Sep 19, 2014, 5:37 PM EDT
Pre-race videos with Austin Dyne and Tanner Foust before Red Bull GRC doubleheader in LA.
Sep 19, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
A win from Gordon on Sunday would give New Hampshire its record-setting 14th different winner in as many races.
Sep 19, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
We crunch the numbers to see who is really ahead at Mercedes in Singapore after Friday practice.
Sep 19, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
Kyle Busch. Joey Logano. Kyle Larson. You may soon add Ben Rhodes to the list of young phenom drivers that have gone on to stardom in the Sprint Cup Series.
Sep 19, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
“…We’re looking for just that little sliver of speed to get back to a dominant position.” – Johnson
Sep 19, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Finishing P1 not enough for the Briton following his Friday running in Singapore.
Sep 19, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
“I hope it’s before the end of this year, but if not, we won’t be too disappointed. We’ve been running well all season long.” – Larson
Sep 19, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
German driver rallies to finish in the top five in both sessions despite an engine failure.
Sep 19, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Already in the Contender Round for the Chase, Keselowski gets his weekend at New Hampshire off to a good start.
Sep 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
German driver feeling comfortable ahead of qualifying in Singapore tomorrow.
Sep 19, 2014, 12:43 PM EDT
IndyCars get their first postseason running with Firestone tire test next week.
Sep 19, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT
Not what the Venezuelan would have planned heading into his Friday programme at Marina Bay.
Sep 19, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Returning to Kyle Busch’s No. 51 Truck, the 17-year-old Jones is making his first appearance this weekend at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Sep 19, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
One of the most controversial F1 rulings in history could be scrapped after just one season.
Sep 19, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
A red flag for Pastor Maldonado stops Nico Rosberg from posting a quick lap time, forcing him to settle for P12 at the finish.
Sep 19, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT
Belardi Auto Racing confirms its first Indy Lights driver for 2015.
Sep 19, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT
Can Fernando Alonso double up to top FP2? Or will Mercedes rise to the top as night falls in Singapore?
Video from NASCAR America
- Brad Keselowski wins pole for Sunday’s Chase race at New Hampshire 0
- F1 Friday Analysis: Is Lewis the man to beat? 0
- Hamilton tops FP2 as night falls in Singapore 0
- F1 Paddock Pass: Singapore Grand Prix (VIDEO) 0
- Alonso fastest in first practice for Singapore GP 0
- Michael Waltrip challenges Dale Jr. to go Dancing With The Stars 1
- Report: Why Mark Martin couldn’t be Danica Patrick’s driving coach 6