By Jacqueline Monahan
Tony Stewart Revs Up Lagasse’s Stadium
He wore a red shirt, which matched his famous #14 race car and sported the name of his sponsors (Office Depot and Old Spice). A small white Chevrolet logo adorned the back, just below his neckline. The man in red could pass for a young college student, soft spoken and a bit wide-eyed as camera crews waited for their turn with the NASCAR legend. Tony Stewart did not have an entourage or even a pit crew to provide a flurry of adjustments for him. With Stewart, what you see is really what you get.
Honored as part of The Palazzo’s Legends of the Sport series on Saturday, February 27, Stewart made his way from the private room at the back of Lagasse’s Stadium, to the very front of the luxurious, cushion-clad “bleachers” to a rousing ovation. After all, The Palazzo was the official home of the Stewart-Haas Racing team during the 2010 NASCAR Weekend (Feb 26 – 28) in Las Vegas, and one of its brightest stars had just arrived.
A highlight reel of Stewart’s exciting championship-filled career, accompanied by a pounding rock beat gave the uninitiated a taste of the excitement of the sport. It’s easy to see the appeal. Who wouldn’t want to make a living in a profession where you’re legally able to drive at speeds approaching 200 M.P.H.?
The danger, technology, and pure sexiness of NASCAR appeals to men and women alike, as evidenced by the evenly split gender mix assembled at the Stadium to see their fast legend and his teammate Ryan Newman (#39).
Stewart was born in Columbus, Indiana and began racing go-karts in 1978 (at the age of seven). He’s raced both Indy Cars and stock cars. Yes, there’s a difference. In 1996, he made his NASCAR Busch Series debut, earning the nickname of “Smoke” for slipping the right rear tire of his car during dirt races, and for “blowing” his engine often.
His most widely known titles are the two he scored in NASCAR’s pinnacle series. The two-time Sprint Cup Series champion earned his first crown in 2002 and a second in 2005.
He doesn’t just race cars; this man also owns some of the tracks on which they can run. In November, 2004, Stewart became the owner of Eldora Speedway in New Weston, Ohio. He is currently a co-owner of Paducah International Raceway near Paducah, Kentucky and Macon Speedway in Macon, Illinois.
Stewart is one of the youngest drivers to win multiple championships. During the 2005 season, he won a total of $13,578,168, including $6,173,633 for winning the championship, the largest season total in NASCAR history.
Stewart achieved ownership in Haas CNC Racing which became Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009. He drives the #14 Chevrolet Impala owned by Margaret Haas, and is the owner of the #39 Impala, driven by Ryan Newman.
Newman himself finished in a top-ten position last season. He was the USAC Silver Bullet Champion in 1999 and made his Sprint Cup debut in 2000. He received his engineering degree from Purdue University in 2001, and joined the Sprint Cup series full-time as the 2002 NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year. He also won "The Winston" all-star race and then followed that season up with eight wins in 2003.
The two drivers teamed up for a Q & A session with Nehme E. Abouzeid, the Palazzo’s Director of Entertainment and Business Development. Both Newman and Stewart commented on the excitement of racing in Las Vegas. “It’s one of three tracks I haven’t won,” said Stewart, “so that’s always a major motivation.” Added Newman, “It’s one of the faster tracks, which is a challenge.”
Stewart admitted to “getting lots of good breaks at the right times” in his career, but believes that the fans only understand “about 10% of his job.” That would be his track time. So much more is spent on vehicle testing, safety, design and performance. “Technology is a big part of our sport,” says the champion.
Both men use the word “lucky” when speaking about their profession, obviously relishing the opportunity to harness and master speed within a glamorous and lucrative sport. Both use the word “awesome” when discussing aspects of racing, whether it’s the thrill of finally being an owner/operator (Stewart) or being backed by a sponsor as formidable as the U.S. Army (Newman). “It makes you humble, knowing you have all that support,” acknowledged a grateful Newman.
Stewart was presented with a crystal Legends of the Sport trophy and flashed a genuinely pleased grin as he held it up. It was apparent that both drivers would most likely be more comfortable on a speedway than sitting still amid bright lights and adulation that neither seemed to understand. They’d rather be in a shop “hanging bodies” and talking about physics and aerodynamics. As usual, they’d rather be racing.
Tony Stewart Career Highlights
• Winston/Nextel/Sprint Cup (37 career wins, 2 championships and a Sprint All-Star Race)
• Busch/Nationwide Series (9 career wins)
• Craftsman/Camping World Truck Series (2 career wins)
• International Race of Champions (4 career wins plus championship)
• IRL Indy Car Series (3 career wins plus championship)
• Appeared with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the music video for 3 Doors Down's song "The Road I'm On".
• Stewart has been included in Electronic Arts' NASCAR (simulated) racing series from 2000-present. His image was on the game’s cover three times (2001, 2004, and 2008).
• 1996-2001 Indy Race earnings - $2,848,123.
• 1999-present NASCAR earnings - $59,509,471
As if that weren’t impressive enough, the #14 guy in red also has a charitable foundation. Founded in 2003, the Tony Stewart Foundation raises and donates funds to help care for chronically ill children, drivers injured in motorsports activities and to support other charitable organizations in the protection of various animal species.
Sometimes it seems good guys DO finish first.
About Lagasse’s Stadium:
Touted as the ultimate sports bar and sports book in Las Vegas, Lagasse's Stadium combines Emeril Lagasse's signature cuisine with over 100 HD TVs including a 9x16 foot main TV, luxury boxes, plush stadium-style seating, billiard tables, and an outdoor patio just steps from the Strip. The Stadium also features sports betting stations, black jack and craps tables, video poker machines, billiard tables and video arcade games. Legends of the Sport events will continue throughout 2010.
For further Information:
The Palazzo Las Vegas
3325 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Las Vegas, NV 89109
World Trade Center Artifacts Dedication Ceremony at Atomic Testing Museum
Most five-year-olds don’t remember what they got for their birthday by the next day. When the Atomic Testing Museum turned five the Las Vegas-based institution received two World Trade Center (WTC) artifacts from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to add to their permanent collection. The museum is sharing its artifacts with the people of Nevada and the world so that no one forgets that they were received and what they represent. Ever.
The three by six foot I-beam, literally weighing one ton, along with a twisted piece of sheet metal (both were rusted to a shade of reddish brown) were featured in a dedication ceremony which took place in the museum’s parking lot on February 27. It is not known from which tower they came as the buildings were structural twins (hence the name Twin Towers).
The large white tent, full of dignitaries and an audience comprised of invited guests and the general public, held several media screens which displayed both still and video documentation of the events of 9/11 and its aftermath. During the ceremony, after the color guard, but before the bell-ringing and bag piper playing Amazing Grace, were several distinguished speakers who filled the solemn atmosphere with thoughtful observations, heartbreaking stories, subtle warnings, and even some humor.
From Mayor Oscar Goodman: Even the Happiest Mayor in the Universe can be somber…but I need my showgirls. Today they are (Congresswomen) Dina Titus and Shelley Berkley.” (The ladies flanked him as he spoke of the importance of WTC tribute and remembrance).
From Senator John Ensign: (to audience) “I can’t follow Mayor Goodman!”
From Mayor Goodman: (to Shelley Berkley) “That’s funny, the FBI always could.”
From Dina Titus: (proud to be an American) “…the great strength and resolve of America that emerged from the smoldering ashes of 9/11.”
From Shelley Berkley: “Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11. I was in a meeting with Joe Lieberman…we wouldn’t be the land of the free if we weren’t home of the brave…”
From John Ensign: (referring to terrorists and U.S. security) “We have to be right 100% of the time. They only have to be right once.”
From a museum representative: (about an artifact) “In its silence this object speaks with unmatched eloquence.”
Certificates of recognition were given to the museum by Shelley Berkley and a representative from Senator Harry Reid’s Office. A protester interrupted Berkley’s speech to scream out, “How did Building 7 blow itself up? Wake up! New world order! New world order!” He was promptly escorted from the proceedings, loudly repeating his question.
He was not alone in his sentiments. At least one other attendee wore a baseball cap that said “9/11- Inside job.” He had the good sense to remain silent and let the cap do the talking for him.
The most powerful portion of the dedication came when 9/11 survivors Sgt. Maj. Tony Rose (U.S. Army, ret), Pentagon site, NYFD firefighter Lee Ielpi and volunteer firefighter Fred Sager, WTC site, shared their stories of rescue amid chaos, unbelievable volunteer efforts, and the indomitable American spirit.
Rose rescued fellow Pentagon workers. Firefighters Ielpi and Sager assisted in rescue and recovery operations, losing 80-100 friends and acquaintances on 9/11. Videos showed the horror of trapped office workers and frantic NYFD radio transmissions which Ielpi later pointed out: “everyone you just heard talking is dead. The building came down on them right after that last transmission.”
Sager and Ielpi brought the day to life for many in the audience (several were native New Yorkers). They spoke of the vibrancy of the World Trade Center as a cultural hub, where people could work, socialize, and gather for entertainment. The North Tower was home to Windows on the World, a restaurant that occupied the 106th and 107th floors. Sager recalls a date there with his wife, “You could look down on clouds and small aircraft. Water in the toilets would slosh around from the tall building swaying in the wind.”
That building and its twin came crashing down in 11seconds on 9/11. There are 1125 people still unaccounted for. Ielpi spoke of being blessed because his son Jonathan, also a firefighter, was recovered as a whole body, one of only about one hundred people who were – the rest simply vaporized.
Ielpi is the President of the WTC Tribute Foundation, keeping the memory of the victims alive. The building sits across the street from one of the towers and is a destination for tourists from around the world. 9/11 is memorialized in artifacts, pictures, posters and video footage.
The museum’s sheet metal artifact will be permanently displayed next to the Berlin Wall exhibit (an actual piece, illustrating the role the NTS played in winning the Cold War with the Soviet Union) while the I-beam will be displayed in a manner that allows visitors to both touch and photograph it.
With thousands of schoolchildren touring the museum annually, many of them too young (or not even born yet) to remember the attacks, this very real chunk of metal can reveal its story through mute testimony that speaks loudly for those who were silenced on that one sunny day in New York.
Its "Ground Zero Theater" simulates the experience of observing an atmospheric nuclear test. Other exhibits include radiation testing devices, pop culture memorabilia related to the atomic age, videos and interactive, hands-on exhibits about radiation.
Operated by the Nevada Test Site Historical Foundation in association with the Smithsonian Institution, some support comes from the purchase of commemorative Nevada Test Site license plates issued by the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles.
The Nevada Test Site operated from early 1951 until 1992, when atomic testing was discontinued. It took a law to do this. During the operational period however, there were 1021 Atomic devices tested, of which 921 were done underground.
For further information:
Atomic Testing Museum
755 East Flamingo Road
Las Vegas, Nevada