Before Tony Stewart drove a stock car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he drove an Indy car. Before he drove an Indy car around the historic 2.5-mile oval, he drove a tow truck up and down Georgetown Road parallel to the track’s 3,330-foot-long frontstretch. Before he drove a tow truck, he bombed around Indy as an up-and-coming USAC driver in various hand-me-downs that consumed as much oil as they did gas. But before Stewart could drive, he joined his grandfather, Gaylord Marshall, on his route as a deliveryman for Mobil.
Thirty-six years after spending summer and winter vacations hanging with his grandfather – a member of the Greatest Generation who interrupted his tenure with Mobil by serving as an artilleryman in the U.S. Army where he fought in the Battle of the Bulge – Stewart has followed in his tire tracks. He too is now a driver for Mobil, except Stewart’s ride is a little quicker than the 1960s-era truck his grandfather piloted. And instead of delivering heating oil to homes in and around Lafayette, Ind., Stewart delivers performance at NASCAR Sprint Cup Series venues across the country.
Unfortunately, Stewart’s grandfather, Gaylord Marshall, passed away last September at age 95. “It was tough, because I knew it was probably going to be the last time I was going to be able to spend time with him. You cherish those kinds of moments. We were pretty close on signing Mobil 1 around that time, and I told him that it looked like we were going to be sponsored by them. I could tell he liked that, because as tired as he was, it made him smile. I was like four or five years old when I rode with him in his delivery truck, and to be 40 now carrying the same colors he carried for all those years, that’s pretty cool,” said Stewart.
This Sunday’s Brickyard 400 will mark Stewart’s 13th career Sprint Cup start at Indy and his 21st overall start at the speedway, as five starts came in the Indianapolis 500 with three more in the defunct IROC series.
He is a two-time winner of the Brickyard 400 (2005 and 2007) and the only driver to start from the pole in the Brickyard 400 (2002) and the Indianapolis 500 (1996). He’s also led a total of 347 laps (217 laps in Sprint Cup, 122 laps in IndyCar and eight laps in IROC) at Indy.
Now as a driver/owner with Stewart-Haas Racing, Stewart aims to join 1997 Brickyard 400 winner Ricky Rudd as the only driver/owners to win the Brickyard 400. And by carrying the colors of Mobil 1, the world’s leading synthetic motor oil blend, Stewart can add a personal memento to what would be another professional triumph – delivering for Mobil 1 the same way his grandfather did for nearly 40 years.