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Stewart's fans eat up chance to get close to their hero



Published: Fri, August 16, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Some don't mind if the NASCAR driver has a temper problem.

By JOHN BASSETTI

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

HARTFORD -- Fans were thrilled by the racing of NASCAR drivers Tony Stewart and Dave Blaney at Sharon Speedway Thursday, but some couldn't get close enough when they wanted an autograph.

Stewart and Blaney held a signing session in the late afternoon, but admittance to a hospitality tent was out of reach for those without proper credentials.

One of the most anxious Stewart fans was Shannon Montgomery of New Castle, Pa.

In addition to wearing an orange Home Depot shirt and hat, the 15-year-old freshman at Laurel High painted Stewart's No. 20 on her face and fingernails.

"He's awesome," she said.

"It's more the driver than the car for Shannon," said Shannon's aunt, Sue Kane of New Castle, of Shannon's infatuation with Stewart.

Kane's brother, Steve Barr, was scheduled to race against Stewart and Blaney in Thursday night's modified event.

Another fan stood on a cooler and yelled to get Stewart's attention. It was to no avail.

Bold appreciation

Four young men nearby said they like Stewart for his bold expression.

"Besides the fact that he's good, he's young and willing to take a chance and be himself," said 24-year-old Dan Lowry of New Waterford, a 1996 graduate of Crestview High and 2001 graduate of YSU. "If you ask someone to leave you alone two or three times, what's a guy supposed to do?"

Recently, Stewart punched a photographer following the Brickyard 400 at Indy.

He was fined $10,000 by NASCAR which put him on probation for the rest of the Winston Cup season. He also was penalized by his car sponsor, Home Depot.

Last season, he was involved in a shoving incident with NASCAR officials.

Near his trailer in the pit area, Johnene Penn of Sharpsville was hoping to get Stewart's book, "True Speed: Tony Stewart's Life of Racing," autographed.

"I held it up and waved it, but no luck," she said.

The book, Penn said, was comical.

"A lot of the stuff is funny," Penn said. "It talks about his different wins. It's very interesting."

Earlier outside the hospitality tent, Corey Renforth of Leetonia said he bought Stewart's book.

"He started racing go-karts and came up the hard way," the 17-year-old senior at Crestview High said.

Return visit

Dan Vignon, also of New Waterford, was at Sharon for the second time. His first was when Dave Blaney appeared at the track in May.

Vignon, a senior at Crestview, said he likes Stewart's spunk.

Fifteen-year-old Jared Thompson of Leetonia, a Crestview sophomore, watches NASCAR on television frequently.

Thompson, who paid $4 for the day's racing program, said he'll "root for anyone as long as Jeff Gordon loses."

A woman nearby said that Stewart is "a man after my own heart."

Dan Irwin of New Castle said he purchased the $25 tickets last month, although his wife advised him to do so much sooner.

"I'm a Tony Stewart fan but my wife is a bigger Tony Stewart fan," Irwin said. "She told me to buy tickets when the announcement first came out in the spring. We like going to dirt tracks anyway, so this is an added attraction."




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