Tony Stewart ‘excited about starting the next chapter’ after final race

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Tony Stewart got a lot of love this weekend in his final race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series prior to his retirement as a full-time driver.

There was nothing remarkable about Stewart’s finish in Sunday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He ran mid-pack most of the race and finished there, too, bringing home his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in 22nd place.

“I raced. I did what I do every time I get in the car,” said Stewart. “I didn’t think of anything else other than just racing the race. We got behind there and we tried something to make ground and got caught out and had to run 60 laps on a set of tires.

“At the end the line-up there was, let’s say confusing. I was still screaming about that just like I would on any other race. I was true to form all the way to the end.”

But regardless of where he finished, what the three-time NASCAR Premier Series champion will take away is the friendship and respect he got from his peers this weekend. Some 25 NASCAR drivers gave him helmets for his collection, including Carl Edwards, who gave Stewart the helmet Edwards wore in the 2011 championship race.

“People I haven’t talked to for a long time, people that are friends that I haven’t seen or heard of from a long time, reached out this week, and it’s been pretty cool,” said Stewart.

Prior to the race, virtually every crew member came out and congratulated Stewart on his career.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Stewart said. “The great thing is I’m not really going anywhere. In the big picture what is changing really isn’t in my big picture – it’s not really a huge change, because 90 percent of the stuff that I’m already doing I’m still going to continue to do.

“I’m excited about finishing this chapter, but I’m really excited about starting the next chapter next year,” said Stewart.

Asked what his emotions were afterwards, Stewart added, “I’m proud. It’s been an awesome 21 years racing in NASCAR with the Xfinity Series and the Cup Series. That is really cool to see that No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) up there making history. Now we’ve got three guys in the seven win club. Pretty proud day, I was glad I got to race with him on the day he got his seventh.”