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As with many NASCAR drivers, Tony Stewart's racing career started with the help of his father.

Stewart first got behind the wheel of a race car at the age of seven when his father, Nelson, served as car owner and crew chief of a go-kart team for his son.

"He never let me settle for second," Stewart said about his father. "He didn't like it when we ran second, and he knew I didn't like it when we ran second.

"He pushed me to be better."

Tony won his first racing championship in 1980 when he came out on top of a four-cycle rookie junior class championship at the Columbus (Ind.) Fairgrounds. He followed that up with an International Karting Federation Championship in 1983 and the World Karting Association national championship in 1987.

In 1989, Stewart graduated to higher horsepower, racing three-quarter midgets before entering the USAC ranks in 1991, where he was named rookie of the year.

Three years later, Stewart won the USAC championship after a five-victory season in just 22 starts in the National Midge category. In 1995, Stewart captured the USAC Triple Crown, winning in the National Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown Series in the same season, a feat that hadn't been accomplished before.

Stewart entered the IRL in 1996, winning its rookie of the year award. A year later, he captured the series championship before heading to NASCAR and Joe GIbbs Racing the next year.

In 1998, Stewart took the Busch Series by storm, winning three races and rookie of the year honors. He also became the first person to complete the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, finishing ninth and fourth, respectively.

In 2002, Stewart captured his first Cup title. He considers it his crowning achievement.

"With the caliber of teams, car owners, crew chiefs and drivers..., that alone makes you respect this championship."