Smokescreen: NASCAR Star Tony Stewart Visits Injured Daytona Fans Following Nationwide Win

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“Smoke” may be known for his bold attitude and swagger.

But there’s much, much more to Oakley’s NASCAR speed demon, Tony Stewart, than his edgy public persona.

The three-time NASCAR Champion, a couple days after grabbing an emotional Nationwide victory over the weekend at Daytona over Sam Hornish Jr., ducked the cameras and the watchful eye of the industry to visit a handful of fans injured at the race after a horrific crash that penetrated the track’s safety barriers.

O’s long-time driver/owner spent a few hours with the victims – some of who were listed as critical upon their arrival at the hospital – to provide comfort, cheer and some signed gear.

Crossing the finish line out in front following the massively dramatic crash, which was undoubtedly hyped in sports media and through YouTube videos from fans in the crowd, Tony couldn’t help but feel a little bittersweet.

Immediately following his win, it became completely apparent – from Tony’s facial expressions and extreme concern in his voice – that his positive race result and celebrations came with a certain sense of guilt.

“We’ve always known since racing was started this was a dangerous sport, but we assume that risk, and it’s hard when the fans get caught up in it,” he said. “So as much as we want to celebrate now and as much as this is a big deal to all of us, I’m more worried about the drivers (injured) and the fans in the stands right now, because I could see it all in the mirror, and it didn’t look good from where I was at, either.”

But his detour from the series’ grind was no planned media opp. There were few photographers (who caught wind of the move). No press conferences.

It was just one of the rare instances when the public got to catch a glimpse of the Tony away from the cameras…the Tony who regularly displays his generosity and compassion through quiet acts.

A recipient of a 2010 humanitarian award, Smoke is consistently on a mission to give back to the community after being shown so much care and generosity from folks who helped him through the ranks as a young racer who didn’t come from money.

“A lot of it is I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family, and there were a lot of people along the way who helped out,” Tony said following his award ceremony in 2010. “Just little things like that that show you how much people helped us along the way. Now we’re finally in a position to turn that around and help others.”