Fans, friends celebrate Tony Stewart’s career

Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart announces he will retire after the 2016 season during a news conference at Stewart-Haas Racing's headquarters in Kannapolis, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) – In the Columbus Dairy Queen, there’s a mural on the wall of the owner’s favorite driver. And he says it will stay there, long after Tony Stewart retires.

“The mural will be here probably until the building is down,” Bob Franke said.

Franke’s known Stewart for more than 30 years. On the soda machine, there’s a picture of little Tony, the young go kart racer Franke sponsored.

“Tony’s a down to earth, common old shoe,” he said.

So when the driver announced his retirement, Franke turned his televisions to the news conference. None of his customers complained.

Now a hometown hero won’t be on the track, and Franke said he won’t be much of a NASCAR fan.

“We try to go to a couple NASCAR races. The main reason we go is to watch Tony Stewart,” he said.

Racing expert Derek Daly said the loss of Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart could deal a blow to the attendance at the Brickyard 400, but he said, in the long run, NASCAR will be okay.

“They will fill it with the stars of the future because they understand that the very foundation of their success is with heroes and role models,” Daly said.

Stewart will retire from NASCAR at the end of the 2016 season.

Franke said he hopes to see some more of Stewart around Columbus.

“I think he’ll be a happy camper just doing what he wants to do and what he likes to do,” Franke said.

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