Tony Stewart wins -- free ice cream for all!
First Tony Stewart wins the Sprint Cup championship. Then there was all that free ice cream. Life couldn't have gotten much better Sunday in Columbus, Ind.
The 40-year-old NASCAR driver has always gotten tremendous support from his hometown, a city of about 40,000 where visitors driving into town are greeted by signs welcoming them to the home of Tony Stewart.
Visitors to the downtown Dairy Queen, where Stewart has been known to hang out, were greeted by another sign on Sunday: "Good Luck Tony, Win the Chase." A mural of the driver is featured on the back wall of the restaurant.
Owner Bob Franke, who was a teenage Stewart's first sponsor, promised free ice cream cones all night if the driver came away with the Sprint Cup that day.
It was a suspense-filled afternoon as Stewart and Carl Edwards battled to the finish for the series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But in the end, Stewart got his prize -- and so did the citizens of Columbus, who lined up well into the night for their free ice cream cones.
But, of course, Stewart's Sprint Cup victory meant much more than just frozen treats to his hometown, which held victory parades for the driver after his series championships in 2002 and 2005.
"It's just a celebration if he wins," assistant manager Kim Sexton said.
Another fan, Jeff Whittington, summed it up: "He's a hometown guy."
-- Chuck Schilken
Photo: Jay Coomer changes the sign of the Dairy Queen in downtown Columbus, Ind., to a message of celebration after hometown hero Tony Stewart won at Homestead-Miami Speedway to take the Sprint Cup title on Sunday. Credit: Joe Harpring / Associated Press / The Republic