Stewart pursues sports writing career

Owen+Stewart+participates+in+an+interview+with+local+ESPN+radio+during+his+senior+year+at+Harrisonburg+High+School.+%28This+photo+was+taken+before+the+pandemic+set+in%29.+

Nyah Phengsitthy

Owen Stewart participates in an interview with local ESPN radio during his senior year at Harrisonburg High School. (This photo was taken before the pandemic set in).

Sid Tandel, Photography Editor in Chief

Being a Starbucks Barista may occupy HHS alumni Owen Stewart’s time during the day, but after work Stewart writes for a blog page called “Fan4Racing.com” writing articles covering NASCAR drivers and other racing related topics. Stewart initially didn’t find racing intriguing but later made a bet with others introducing himself into NASCAR and the racing scene in a broader way. 

“I didn’t watch racing at all until two years ago. I thought it was boring. I remember a couple years ago someone had a bracket where some people picked a predicted winner for the Daytona 500 and I ended up winning. So next week I started watching the race because I wanted to see if my pick won again, and after watching I realized racings actually much cooler than I thought it was,” Stewart said. “I started watching every race and at the beginning of the pandemic I didn’t have much to do so I searched for blog websites that I could potentially write for. I came across the website I am writing for now and emailed the publisher and sent in a sample of my writing from the past and started writing for the site. It started out with just one article a week, but now I do two to three.”

Stewart’s desire to pursue this occupation stems from his motivation to seek a career related to NASCAR in the future and use his current job as work experience with the sport. 

“This is an unpaid position so right now I’m just doing this voluntarily. My main hope for this job is just something I can put on my resume and use for the future because I would like to work in NASCAR at some point. Whether that be sports media, marketing or even business partnerships. This is just something to show that I’ve been involved in the sport and have experience working with NASCAR,” Stewart said. 

While Stewart initially attended Alderson Broaddus University (ABU) to continue his baseball career at a collegiate level, he found he didn’t enjoy his decision to continue playing baseball. 

“I was at ABU in West Virginia but I didn’t really like it after a semester so I came home.  I had too much of a focus on athletics during college because I was playing Baseball and I realized that’s not what I wanted to do at least at the collegiate level and it didn’t make sense for me to go to that school anymore since that was the only reason I was there in the first place. Truth being told, I never really wanted to play college baseball. I realized towards the end of my high school career that some of my friends playing college baseball talked about how they would have to put in a lot of hard hours that didn’t really seem worth it to me. I ended up playing because I felt I owed it to all the people who helped coach me and it got to the point where I realized I’m really not enjoying playing anymore. By the end of the semester I was ready for something new and I don’t have any regrets about my decision.”

After attending ABU, Stewart later chose JMU because it teaches his preferred academic major, sports management. Stewart looks forward to his future at JMU for COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted. 

“I went to Blue Ridge for the spring semester because community college was literally the only option at the time. I, initially, was going to go to George Mason [University] but I got no financial aid there and they didn’t have my major, [sports management] so I ended up going to JMU because they have my major and it’s cheaper,” Stewart said. “When I was in high school I had no interest in going to JMU and wanted to go to a small school which I ended up doing. ABU was half the size of HHS in terms of student body. I obviously haven’t gotten the full JMU experience because we’ve been on Zoom since I transferred so I haven’t really met anyone, but I really like my professors and for the most part I think a sports management major is something that’s really unique so it’s nice JMU offers that. It’s nice taking the classes I want to take, have professors that really care and I’m just excited to go back in person and do normal college things like have full class sizes, go to the dining hall and go to football games.”

Although Stewart still enjoys baseball, NASCAR occupies his main sports interest at the moment because of the depth beyond what’s seen on the screen. Stewart feels the sport is far more interesting because of the rivalries between the three major manufacturers in NASCAR, Ford, Toyota, and Chevrolet. 

“There’s so much beyond what you see on T.V. Before I watched NASCAR, it was always cars driving really fast in a circle for four hours but when you actually watch a race every week you begin to start to realize all the little things that go unnoticed in the race like driver rivalries for example. There are actually teams in NASCAR which I didn’t know until I started watching so it’s kind of interesting to see the rivalries that build between different teams and how teams will work together and sometimes don’t work together. There’s also a rivalry between the different manufacturers since the competition is so stiff with just three main competitors. It’s kind of interesting to see what’s going on more than what you would see on television. This is especially true for racing because it seems so boring on the surface but isn’t in [actuality.]”

Stewart writes for Fan4Racing fully unpaid but enjoys the stress-free environment it promotes. Stewart also feels the closeness of the group of writers helps contribute to his enjoyment of covering NASCAR. 

“I really like writing for [Fan4Racing.] It’s a volunteer thing so you don’t feel pressured. There were times last year when I was super busy and I just didn’t have time to write the articles for the week and my publisher was super understanding about it. It’s nice because while I do try to turn everything in on time sometimes I have other things I have to worry about so I don’t get it done,” Stewart said. “I also really like it because it’s a pretty tight-knit group of about nine to ten people. We have a Microsoft Team group chat where we’re constantly talking about what’s going on in the races, what articles we’re going to write and we also have a fantasy racing bracket where we pick drivers for each race and we add up our points throughout the season. It’s cool to be such a close group with people from all over the United States all writing for the same website,” Stewart said. 

While Stewart is balancing classes at JMU, writing for Fan4Racing and working at Starbucks as a Barista, he finds making a schedule helped him manage his time in a concise manner. 

“Since all of my classes are online I do tend to multitask. I tend to do Zoom on my phone so sometimes I’ll be typing my articles while in class. I have class two days a week on Tuesday and Thursday so I work in the morning on Mondays and Wednesdays and race day is Sunday so I try to have my power rankings done by Tuesday,” Stewart said. “I do a winners and losers brackets which is [based on placing of] drivers, teams, manufacturers and sponsors which I try to get done by Wednesday. I also do a cash or pass article which shows drivers you should and should not bet on for each race which I turn in by Friday and it’s kind of a preview for next week’s race.”

While his job writing articles for Fan4Racing is temporary and unpaid, Stewart feels his current career may lead him to a future in NASCAR. 

“Our site has media tent access on race day so my hope is that at some point either during the summer or fall, depending on COVID-19 regulations I might be able to interview a couple drivers or just get in with some high end journalists. That’s kind of what this job is for-make connections, meet people who could actually get me somewhere. Especially this year because they’re adding new tracks and going to Circuit of The Americas which is traditionally a Formula 1 track. I don’t want to risk anything with COVID-19 but if it gets to the point where I can safely travel then that’s definitely an opportunity I’m going to take.”

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