Champ no chump on ABC TV show
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tony Stewart and comedian Tim Allen are on the Hollywood set of "Last Man Standing" next to the No. 14 car the driver more commonly known as "Smoke" drove to his third Sprint Cup title in 2011.
"Can I drive it?" Allen asks.
"No," Stewart replies.
"Can I sit in it?" Allen says.
"No," Stewart answers.
"Can I " Allen begins to ask.
"Don't even look at it," Stewart says sternly.
"Can I touch it," Allen pleads.
"You can touch it once," Stewart says.
As Allen puts a finger on the car, Stewart interjects, "All right, that's enough."
To which Allen replies, "I dated a girl like that."
Stewart won't win an Emmy Award for his acting, but he had a lot of fun taping this ABC episode titled "Adrenaline" that airs Tuesday night. One of the many perks for winning a championship in NASCAR is you become the face of the sport and get to do cool things outside the confines of SAFER Barriers.
This definitely was outside of Stewart's comfort zone.
But Stewart's sarcasm and quick wit made him a natural to work with Allen, who in the sitcom is the director of marketing at an outdoor sporting goods store in Denver trying to maintain his manliness in his world dominated by a wife and three daughters.
Perhaps Stewart can relate since his world is dominated by a woman -- Danica Patrick.
Hey, it's a comedy show.
Stewart's appearance was set up by NASCAR's Los Angeles office in its ongoing effort to integrate drivers into Hollywood. The goal is to introduce the stars to audiences that normally won't tune into the upcoming Daytona 500 or any other motorsports event.
Last year, NASCAR orchestrated 41 television and film integrations with 21 drivers across 19 different networks. That comes to 201 million impressions, a term the public relations world uses to measure the number of people they reach.
So turning drivers into actors can be profitable in the advertising sense.
"This is something that obviously is a little bit out of our comfort zone, because we're used to being in a uniform in a 3,400-pound stock car." Stewart said during the Jan. 16-17 shoot.
"So to come here and do TV is something that is pretty fun. It's exciting to do something different and get out of that norm a little bit."
The title of the show is perfect for Stewart. He literally was the last man standing in the 2011 Chase in which he took the title by a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards.
Staging Stewart opposite Allen also was perfect because Allen is a car guy and has a similar sarcastic wit. At one point when Stewart was explaining off camera about how the No. 14 was "the real deal," Allen quipped, "It's a classic, much like your haircut."
Later, when discussing a scene where Allen does a donut in the parking lot outside the studio, Allen said, "I don't think I could do a donut in anything else, so we figured we wanted the best. NASCAR's the best, the best driver, so what are we going to do?"
Replied Stewart, "I just got excited because I heard donuts, and I thought I was going to get to eat."
When Allen completed his donut, Stewart told him, "My sister did better donuts the first time."
Said Allen, "So good! That was really confidence-building."
But it was all in fun, and it's good for NASCAR or any sport when the athletes cross over into other worlds.
"Tony did an amazing job," said Zane Stoddard, NASCAR's managing director of entertainment marketing and business development. "The truth is, you never know what you're going to get when athletes are on shows, but Tony did a really, really good job and they did a really good job of writing something that fits Tony's personality."
NASCAR's goal is no different than that of a singer performing at the Super Bowl to push a new song, or an actor being a presenter at the NFL Awards show to push an upcoming movie.
It's all about selling a product and expanding the market to potential buyers. Or in the storyline of "Adrenaline," Allen's character bringing Stewart and his car into the store to drive more traffic.
It's why last month Carl Edwards co-hosted "Live with Regis and Kelly," why last year five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson played himself in the TV series "Breaking In," why defending Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne is scheduled to appear in a show on the Cartoon Network this year.
The drivers enjoy these breaks from the regular routine. It gives them an opportunity to take chances outside the car.
But their ultimate goal is to be like Stewart was last season, "The Last Man Standing" in NASCAR.
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @DNewtonespn.
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