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‘Smoke’ through the years: A Tony Stewart timeline

tony stewart 1999

How time has flown since Tony Stewart first came to the Sprint Cup Series in 1999. Wednesday, he announced he would retire after the 2016 season.

A look at some of the most memorable accomplishments -- and outbursts -- in Tony Stewart’s career:

  • Feb. 17, 1996 – Makes his debut in a national NASCAR touring series with the Xfinity Series’ Goody’s Headache Powder 300 at Daytona International Speedway. Stewart starts 34th and finishes 21st in first of 94 starts in the series.

  • May 26, 1996 – Starts first in his first Indianapolis 500 (after teammate and pole-sitter Scott Brayton was killed during a crash in practice). Stewart leads 44 laps but completes only 82 of 200, finishing 24th because of a malfunctioning pop-off valve.

  • 1997 – Captures the Indy Racing League championship with one victory and two podium finishes over 10 races.

  • Feb. 14, 1999 – Makes NASCAR Sprint Cup debut in the Daytona 500, driving the No. 20 Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing. Starts second and finishes 28th.

  • April 18, 1999 – Starts from the first of 15 Sprint Cup poles in the Goody’s Body Pain 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

  • May 30, 1999 – Stewart completes his first of two “Double” attempts by competing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. He finishes ninth at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and fourth at Charlotte Motor Speedway, later lamenting that he could have won with proper hydration and nutrition.

  • Sept. 11, 1999 – Becomes the first to win during his rookie season in NASCAR’s premier series since Davey Allison in 1987, leading 330 of 400 laps to capture the Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Stewart triumphs again at Phoenix and Homestead, winning rookie of the year.

  • Oct. 3, 1999 — Stewart is involved in multiple incidents with the late Kenny Irwin Jr. at Martinsville Speedway, the second of which puts Stewart’s car in the wall. As Irwin’s car approaches under caution, Stewart throws his heat shields at Irwin and reaches through his right-side window in retaliation. Stewart was fined $5,000 by NASCAR.

  • May 2000 – In a news conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Stewart apologizes and says he was misunderstood in a series of recent interviews in which he said expressed dissatisfaction with the state of NASCAR (saying some of his fellow drivers were “fake” and that Talladega fans were “obnoxious.”)

  • Aug. 13, 2000 – Stewart is involved in a postrace argument with Jeff Gordon at Watkins Glen International before they are separated by crewmembers. Stewart and Gordon had made contact in the opening laps.

  • Nov. 12, 2000 – Stewart wins the season’s penultimate race at Homestead, capping a season in which he won a career-best six times.

  • Feb. 18, 2001 – Stewart is taken to Halifax Medical Center after flipping violently and landing on teammate Bobby Labonte’s hood during the season-opening Daytona 500. He later reveals he was in an adjoining room when seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt arrived and was pronounced dead after a wreck on the last lap.

  • July 7, 2001 – In the circuit’s return to Daytona International Speedway, Stewart finishes 26th after being black-flagged for what NASCAR deemed an illegal pass. During a postrace tantrum, he slaps a tape recorder out of a reporter’s hand and kicks it under a hauler. He also confronts Sprint Cup director Gary Nelson. He is fined $10,000 and placed on probation.

  • Nov. 23, 2001 -- Despite a tumultuous season, he finishes fifth in the season finale at New Hampshire and places second in points with three wins.

  • Aug. 4, 2002 – Stewart strikes a photographer after finishing 12th in the Brickyard 400. He is placed on probation.

  • Aug. 11, 2002 – Stewart wins at Watkins Glen International and confesses he spent the week worried about whether JGR and sponsor Home Depot would fire him for the incident at Indianapolis.

  • Nov. 17, 2002 – Stewart clinches his first Sprint Cup championship with an 18th at Homestead, wrapping up a season with three wins and 15 top-five finishes.

  • June 27, 2004 – In an altercation at Sonoma Raceway, Brian Vickers claims Stewart hit him in the chest while he sat inside his car. Stewart is placed on probation.

  • Aug. 7, 2005 – The Columbus, Ind., native ends an agonizing wait with his first victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the first of two Brickyard 400 wins.

  • Nov. 20, 2005 – Clinches second championship with a 15th at Homestead. His five victories comes during a seven-race stretch from June to August.

  • April 21, 2007 – Following a race with four caution flags for debris, Stewart compares NASCAR to professional wrestling during his talk show on Sirius Satellite Radio. He is lectured by officials a few days later at Talladega Superspeedway and placed on probation.

  • March 9, 2008 – Stewart lambastes Goodyear after finishing second at Atlanta Motor Speedway and says he is “going to go home and take everything that has Goodyears on it and put Firestones on and feel a lot safer.” He suggests Goodyear pull out of NASCAR if it can’t build a better tire.

  • July 10, 2008 – Stewart announces he will leave Joe Gibbs Racing after the season to become a co-owner-driver at Stewart-Haas Racing with Gene Haas.

  • 2009 – In his first season at SHR, the organization breaks through with its first victory, and Stewart scores four wins while leading the points for much of the regular season. He finishes sixth in the points.

  • Nov. 20, 2011 – Stewart wins the season finale at Homestead, his fifth victory in the Chase’s 10 races, becoming the first owner-driver to win a Sprint Cup championship since Alan Kulwicki in 1992. The surge comes after Stewart had declared his team unworthy of making the Chase in August.

  • May 6, 2012 – Stewart delivers a deadpan comedy routine during postrace interviews at Talladega, apologizing to fans because not enough cars had crashed.

  • March 24, 2013 -- Stewart confronts Joey Logano in the pits after a 22nd at Auto Club Speedway, touching off a scuffle between their teams. He vows “I’m going to bust his ass” about Logano, who took over Stewart’s ride for four seasons after he left JGR.

  • June 2, 2013 – Stewart wins his most recent Sprint Cup race in the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway.

  • Aug. 5, 2013 – Stewart breaks his right leg during a sprint car crash in Oskaloosa, Iowa and misses the final 15 races of the season.

  • Aug. 9, 2014 – In a race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, a sprint car driven by Tony Stewart strikes and kills Kevin Ward Jr. Stewart misses the next three races while grieving. He later claims in legal documents that he didn’t see Ward, who angrily had approached Stewart’s car under yellow after a spin. Ward’s family files a wrongful death lawsuit a year later.

  • Sept. 30, 2015 – Tony Stewart announces he will retire from Sprint Cup competition following the completion of the 2016 season.