BROWNSBURG, Ind. – An IndyCar crew member says he is overwhelmed by the amount of support he has received from the racing community since a fire destroyed his Brownsburg home Friday night.
Eric “Stu” Stewart says smoke alarms alerted him to the fire in the 200 block of Hartsford Way. The blaze consumed nearly everything he owns.
“I walked out the door with my team polo, my work shorts and my cell phone,” Stewart said. “No shoes, no socks.”
But while the sudden loss of his home, Jeep and Harley Davidson motorcycle was stunning, Stewart says the response he’s witnessed from the racing world has been equally stunning.
“The text messages, social media, the outreach from my IndyCar family, the community here, it’s just been very humbling,” Stewart said. “Crew members, owners, drivers, I’ve had so many people reach out. It’s overwhelming.”
Stewart has been involved with racing for 30 years and has worked for several different racing teams. He currently works on the crew for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. He’s known around IndyCar for his kind heart and generous nature. Now that generosity is coming back around.
“First thing you think about is, is he okay,” said Schmidt Peterson Team Manager, Taylor Kiel. “And then once we found out he’s okay, it’s what can we do to help?”
Within one day, a GoFundMe page for Stewart surpassed its $1,000 goal, then a $5,000 goal, and a $10,000 goal. The fundraising goal had increased to $20,000 by Monday afternoon.
“I expect it to keep growing, and we’ll keep raising the limit, and wherever we get to we get to,” Kiel said. “I mean there isn’t enough for Stu.”
Stewart says the outpouring of support is an example of the family-like bond shared by those in the racing community. As an example, he’s temporarily staying with a good friend who works for Andretti Autosport.
“We still compete on the track together, but we’re still good friends,” said Scott Marks, Crew Chief for Alexander Rossi #27.
“We’re out there each weekend, competitors, but when it’s all said and done, they’ve got each other’s backs,” Stewart said.
“So he’s been around forever, and everybody knows him and it’s all about the way that he treats people and goes about his business,” Kiel said. “When you treat people the right way in your life, and something like this happens, it’s no surprise that that love comes back tenfold.”
Brownsburg fire investigators say they’re still working to determine the cause of Friday night’s fire. Public Information Officer, Ryan Miller says nothing has been ruled out as a contributing factor, including a utility excavating crew that had been digging right next to Stewart’s house. Miller said investigators were still waiting for an insurance company to shore up the home to make the structure safe enough for investigators to go inside.
In the meantime, Stewart says he’s glad he put three championship rings in a gun safe, which protected them from the fire. He’s not sure if he’ll be back at IMS in time for testing this month. But he is determined to be back at the track in time for the Grand Prix, and the 102nd running of the Indy 500.
“My heart is there. I’m sick to my stomach that I’m not at the track testing with my boys,” Stewart said.