Tony Stewart, who has won championships in more series than anyone racing today, traded his race suit for a zoo-keeper’s uniform during a behind-the-scenes experience at the Oakland Zoo on Thursday.
Stewart, who was in the Bay Area in advance of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway (June 24-26), had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up-close and personal with Osh, an 11,000 pound, 16-year-old male elephant. Working alongside Elephant Manager Jeff Kinzley, Stewart helped complete some of the daily care for Osh, including a “pedicure,” mouth check and feeding him lunch. Osh even kicked off the countdown to race weekend by passing Stewart the official green flag.
“That’s a pretty incredible animal, and this is like nothing I’ve ever done,” said the driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing. “It didn’t take long to realize how much respect you have to have for that animal.”
Elephant Manager Jeff Kinzley said of Stewart, “Tony was a true star with Osh, just like he is on the track.”
Stewart also had the chance to interact with some of the zoo’s other popular attractions, including a skunk, tortoise and a 48-pound Colombian red-tail boa, before participating in a Q&A with media members and fans.
More than 100 fans came out to see Stewart, who also unveiled the new Trackside with Tony ticket package for race weekend. This package includes Saturday and Sunday race tickets for the Toyota/Save Mart 350, plus a Q&A with Stewart in the Club 7 hospitality area, for just $114. Plus, a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Tony Stewart Foundation.
“I always enjoy going to Sonoma. It’s not only a beautiful area, but I always enjoy the road courses,” said Stewart, a two-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion. “The competition is getting better and better on the road courses, and I can honestly say there are 12-15 guys who can go home with a win.”
Stewart, who has posted two wins in Sonoma (2002, ’05), returns to Northern California in June for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway. Tickets, including the Trackside with Tony package, are available by calling 800-870-RACE or at http://www.infineonraceway.com/.
Infineon Raceway Press Release