Stewart is a champion off the racetrack as much as he is on, and has been recognized for his philanthropic efforts via his Tony Stewart Foundation, which raises funds for distribution to three specific groups - chronically ill children, drivers injured in motorsports activities, and organizations dedicated to the protection of various animal species. This year, Stewart is a champion for another cause as he has been named honorary chairman of National Hunting and Fishing Day 2012.
Congress established National Hunting and Fishing Day to recognize hunters and anglers for their leadership in fish and wildlife conservation. Since launching in 1971, the day has been formally proclaimed by every U.S. President, countless governors and mayors. Stewart joins an elite fraternity of entertainment and sports figures that have served as honorary chairs, including Hank Williams Jr., Travis Tritt, Tracy Byrd, Jeff Foxworthy, Jay Novacek, Robert Urich, Wade Boggs, Ward Burton, Arnold Palmer, Terry Bradshaw, the USA Olympic Shooting Team and many others. The annual celebration is set for Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.
"It's a pleasure to be this year's honorary chairman of National Hunting and Fishing Day," Stewart said. "I love the outdoors and everything that goes into maintaining the outdoors. Nurturing the land is as satisfying for me as hunting and fishing."
Stewart seemed destined for racing success at an early age when the Columbus, IN native won his first championship at age 8 - a 4-cycle rookie junior class championship at the Columbus Fairgrounds. After two more karting championships - this time on a national level - the rest, as they say, was history.
Stewart came to NASCAR in 1999 via the IZOD IndyCar Series where he was series champion in 1997. Prior to IndyCar, he had four USAC (United States Auto Club) championships, including an unprecedented win of USAC's "Triple Crown." He is the first and only driver to have won championships in stock cars, Indy cars and open-wheel Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown cars.
He has won some of the biggest races in motorsports including being a two-time winner of the Brickyard 400, a six-time winner of the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway, and a two-time winner of the famed Chili Bowl - an all-star Midget race at Tulsa (OK) Expo Raceway.
In 2008, Stewart became driver/owner in the Sprint Cup Series with Stewart/Haas Racing, but he had already proven himself a successful team owner with the formation as Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) in 2000. TSR has earned 15 owner championships and Stewart is passionate about providing cars and equipment for racing's future stars. It's his way of giving back to the grassroots racing series that enabled him to become a motorsports icon.
"Giving back is something that drives me, be it in racing or with the outdoors," Stewart said. "In order for racing to be sustainable, we have to have younger generations get involved. It's the same with the outdoors. In order for hunting and fishing to be sustainable, our land and wildlife needs to be managed and maintained, and that knowledge has to be passed on from one generation to the next."
"We are excited to have Tony Stewart as honorary chairman of National Hunting and Fishing Day. It's good to have the voice and perspective of one of America's most respected NASCAR drivers, owner and philanthropists. His volunteerism shows that hunting, fishing and conservation remain important in all walks of American life today," said Misty Mitchell, Director of Conservation Programs for Wonders of Wildlife. The museum, in Springfield, Mo., is the official home of National Hunting and Fishing Day.
Wonders of Wildlife coordinates public education and awareness campaigns to promote traditional outdoor sports. The museum recently opened the newly constructed Conservation Education Center. The museum itself has also undergone extensive renovations and will open in 2013.
Stewart is one of America's 34 million hunters and anglers. Together, their licenses, permits and special taxes contribute more than $4.7 million each day for fish, wildlife and habitat programs. No one contributes more for conservation.
The growing list of sponsors for National Hunting and Fishing Day 2012 includes Wonders of Wildlife, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Bass Pro Shops, Sportsman Channel, Realtree, GunBroker.com, Pope and Young, Ducks Unlimited, Smith & Wesson and Yamaha.
For more information, visit www.nhfday.org.
Misty Mitchell at 417-225-1118 or firstname.lastname@example.org