Tony Stewart's NASCAR highs and lows
Those uninitiated to motorsports may have heard Tony Stewart's name for the first time after the NASCAR champion's car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race in upstate New York on Aug. 9, 2014. (Stewart was absolved of criminal charges and is currently facing a civil lawsuit.)
But Stewart is one of the most successful -- and colorful -- athletes in auto racing and pro sports in general over the past 15 years.
Check out some of his best and worst moments amid multiple reports that he will retire following the 2016 season and cede his ride to Clint Bowyer.
Tony Stewart's NASCAR highs and lows(Credit: AP/Chris O'Meara)
Tony Stewart, right -- who reportedly is retiring after 2016 and ceding his ride to Clint Bowyer -- gets in a shoving match with Robby Gordon after an on-track altercation during Daytona 500 practice at Daytona International Speedway in 2000.
Tony Stewart's car went into the air during the closing laps of the Daytona 500 in 2001. As spectacular as the wreck was, it was largely forgotten when NASCAR icon Dale Earnhardt Sr. was killed on the final lap.
Tony Stewart runs away from photographers at Homestead-Miami Speedway between the final race of the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup season, where he won the first of his three titles. Earlier in the year, Stewart punched a photographer at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, earning a fine and probation.
Tony Stewart celebrates winning the 2002 NASCAR Cup championship after the final race of the season, the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. Stewart won the NASCAR title in his fourth season, adding that trophy to the IndyCar crown he won in 1997.
Movie star and former WWE champ Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson meets Tony Stewart at Texas Motor Speedway in 2004. In 2007, Stewart made headlines when he compared NASCAR to professional wrestling on his satellite radio show, saying NASCAR threw unnecessary caution flags to artificially create exciting finishes.
Tony Stewart has never won the Daytona 500, but in his mind he's already won the most prestigious race on the NASCAR schedule. Indiana native Stewart has taken the checkered flag at the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway twice. Here he kisses the bricks, part of the customary celebration, after his first win in 2005. He kissed the bricks again after winning in 2007.
Tony Stewart, right, hangs out with Matt Lauer on NBC's Today Show in September 2005. Stewart would go on to win his second NASCAR Cup title later in the year.
Tony Stewart enjoys the view at Top of the Rock in Manhattan in 2005, part of the Champions Week celebration marking Stewart's second NASCAR Sprint Cup title earlier in the year.
Tony Stewart, left, shares a laugh with NASCAR President Mike Helton during Champions Week in Manhattan in 2005. Stewart had every reason to be in good spirits after winning his second Sprint Cup title in '05.
Tony Stewart sprays television commentator Jimmy Spencer with Coke after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Martinsville in 2006.
Tony Stewart presented President George W. Bush with his own firesuit during the driver's White House visit in 2006. Stewart earned the trip after winning his second NASCAR Sprint Cup title in 2005.
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart discusses his career in a ceremony at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 2006. He's flanked by the cars he drove in the Indianapolis 500, left, and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day in 1999. Stewart picked up a pair of top-10 finishes that day -- ninth at Indy and fourth at the 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
One of Tony Stewart's most memorable NASCAR wins came in the 2006 Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. -- mainly because of what happened after the race. Stewart climbed the fence to grab the checkered flag, came down on the spectators' side and got caught in a mosh pit of fans. When he finally got back to Victory Lane, he said on national TV that the race's moniker not withstanding, "Coca-Cola still tastes a hell of a lot better," referring to his personal sponsor.
Tony Stewart greets the fans while escorted by mom Pam Boas before the Dodge Challenger 500 at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C. in 2008, on the Saturday before Mother's Day.
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart, left, hangs out with Kid Rock at Michigan International Speedway in 2008. That year was marked by Stewart being fined and put on probation by the United States Auto Club. Stewart, in the pits as the team owner, shoved one USAC official and knocked the headset off of another after disagreeing with a ruling.
After 10 years driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, Tony Stewart announced at Chicagoland Speedway in 2008 that he would partner with Gene Haas' Haas CNC Racing in 2009. Stewart became the team's marquee driver and was given a 50 percent ownership stake. He paid his partner back by winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup title in 2011.
Before leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to form Stewart-Haas Racing, NASCAR driver Tony Stewart (20) won one more time -- although he didn't cross the finish line first. Regan Smith (01) beat him to the checkered flag during the fall Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway in 2008. But Smith was penalized for passing under the yellow line at the track, giving Stewart the victory.
NASCAR champ Tony Stewart got the opportunity of a lifetime in 2011, when he participated in a promotional "car swap" with Formula 1 champ and fellow Mobil 1 driver Lewis Hamilton at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York.
Tony Stewart celebrates after winning his third NASCAR Sprint Cup title at Homstead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla., in 2011. Stewart actually finished tied in points with Carl Edwards, but Stewart's five wins during the Chase gave him the championship via tiebreaker.
Tony Stewart shares a lighthearted moment with President Barack Obama at the White House in 2012, part of the celebration after Stewart won his third NASCAR Sprint Cup title in 2011.
Tony Stewart (14) and Matt Kenseth tangle at the Bristol NASCAR Sprint Cup night race in 2012. The encounter took out Stewart, and he showed his displeasure by slinging his helmet at Kenseth's windshield while Kenseth was exiting pit road and safety officials were trying to shepherd Stewart into an ambulance to get checked out.
Tony Stewart missed the final 15 races of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season after breaking both bones in his right leg after crashing during a Sprint Car race in Iowa. But the driver-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing used a motorized scooter to get back to the track and keep an eye on his NASCAR teams.
Tony Stewart, shown here in 2009, continued to race sprint cars even as his NASCAR career blossomed. He's never developed the workout regimens of NASCAR contemporaries like Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson, maintaining that racing as much as he could was the best way to prepare for NASCAR competition. So he went back to sprint car racing in 2014 despite breaking both bones in his right leg in 2013 and missing the final 15 races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
Sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr., hangs out at at the Merrittville Speedway in Thorold, Canada on June 28, 2014. Ward was killed Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014 at the Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Central Square, N.Y., when the car being driven by Tony Stewart struck the 20-year-old who had climbed from his crashed car and was on the darkened dirt track trying to confront Stewart following a bump with Stewart one lap earlier. Stewart was absolved from criminal responsibility but current faces a civil lawsuit.
NASCAR driver Tony Stewart reads a statement during a news conference at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga., Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. Stewart returned to competition at Atlanta after missing three Sprint Cup races following the death of Kevin Ward Jr.
Tony Stewart, left, driver of the #14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, speaks with Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 5-hour Energy Toyota, in the garage during practice for the NASCAR Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on April 11, 2014 in Darlington, South Carolina. Bowyer will take over for Stewart in 2017 after Stewart drives one final year in 2016.
Tony Stewart injured his back in a dune buggy accident on Jan. 31, 2016 and will miss the Daytona 500 and the first part of what was to be his final Sprint Cup season.