My Search for the Elusive Tony Stewart Home Depot Jacket

I’ve been a huge NASCAR fan since I was a kid. Growing up in the 1990s, one of my favorite drivers was Tony Stewart. I loved his aggressive driving style and his “take no prisoners” attitude on the track. But what really cemented my fandom was his iconic Home Depot #20 car and jacket. I just had to have one of those Home Depot jackets for myself!

The Origins of Smoke’s Jacket

Tony Stewart first partnered with Home Depot in 1999 after leaving IndyCar racing to join NASCAR. The orange, black and white colors of the home improvement store chain perfectly matched Tony’s bold personality. Home Depot served as the main sponsor for Tony’s #20 Joe Gibbs Racing car from 1999 through 2008. During those years, Smoke as he was nicknamed, won 2 NASCAR Cup Series championships while repping the Home Depot brand.

The Home Depot jacket that Tony wore was a stylish black windbreaker with orange stripes down the sleeves. His nickname “Smoke” was embroidered on the left chest, along with the Home Depot logo. It had a real sporty, athletic look fitting for a racing driver. Tony would wear the jacket during interviews, pre-race footage and victory lane celebrations. For diehard Stewart fans like me, that jacket was a must-have symbol of Smoke’s early success.

The Hunt Begins

Once I got my driver’s license as a teenager, I started scouring local sports memorabilia shops searching for a Tony Stewart Home Depot jacket. Unfortunately, most of the NASCAR merchandise featured newer drivers like Jeff Gordon or Dale Earnhardt Jr. The shop owners would just shake their heads when I asked about Stewart’s jacket from the early 2000s. One kind store clerk told me “Your best bet is to search eBay or maybe get lucky at a yard sale.”

So my hunt continued on the internet auction sites. I spent hours browsing eBay listings but had no luck finding my coveted prize. Plenty of more recent Tony Stewart gear was available, along with some vintage #20 Joe Gibbs crew shirts. But the authentic Home Depot jacket remained elusive. The few times I did come across a listing for one, the bidding price rocketed up over $500. As much as I wanted one, that was out of my budget as a broke college student.

I started to lose hope of ever getting my own Tony Stewart jacket. It seemed like they had become impossibly rare over the years. Perhaps an eBay seller would eventually list one at a reasonable Buy It Now price, but I wasn’t holding my breath.

Trying My Luck with Replicas

After repeatedly striking out in finding an authentic race-worn Tony Stewart jacket, I began considering replicas. I found a few sites online that offered jackets modeled after Smoke’s iconic Home Depot look. The prices were much more affordable in the $70-$100 range. The downside was that they weren’t officially licensed by NASCAR or Home Depot. But some of the replicas looked decent in the product photos at least.

I bit the bullet and ordered one just to see if it would satisfy my desire for the real thing. When it arrived, I have to admit I was initially impressed. The stitching and screen printing quality seemed good. It had the classic black windbreaker style with orange stripes, Tony’s nickname on the front, and the Home Depot logo. However, when I tried it on, the fit was boxy and loose – nothing like the tailored cut of a real racing jacket. Also, the color shades were slightly off.

In the end, I just couldn’t accept this replica as an adequate replacement for the authentic Tony Stewart jacket. It lacked the charm and uniqueness of original merchandise produced in the early 2000s. No mass-produced imitation could capture the spirit of Smoke’s fiery personality from his rookie season. So sadly, it was back to the drawing board for me in my quest.

Scouring Local Racing Shops

I decided to abandon my online searches for a while and focus my jacket hunt on local shops. I visited every racing memorabilia store within a 50 mile radius of my town. At each one, I talked to the employees about my mission to find a Tony Stewart Home Depot jacket from his rookie year. They appreciated my passion but none had ever seen one come through their inventory.

I expanded my search to larger shops in nearby metro areas. One store in Richmond had an amazing selection of vintage NASCAR gear but nothing from Stewart’s Gibbs Racing days. The clerk there told me the jackets were so limited in production, they rarely surfaced for sale anymore. He suggested trying to meet Tony at an autograph signing and asking him directly for one – if I was willing to pay thousands of dollars!

My last option was to hit some of the bigger racing markets down south. On a trip with friends to Charlotte, we visited several huge NASCAR superstores. Still no luck – they laughed at my obsession over a jacket from decades ago. An old-timer sales guy reminisced about seeing Tony wearing it on TV but said finding one today would be “tougher than holding back the leaders on a late restart!”

Considering Custom Reproduction

At this point in my journey, I had scoured the country for an authentic Tony Stewart Home Depot jacket with zero success. If I wanted to own anything close to the real thing, I would need to pay for a custom reproduction. The obvious downside was the cost – getting one tailored and screen printed would likely run $200-$300. But on the bright side, I could select high-end materials and get an exact replica made to my size.

I found a few companies that advertised NASCAR replica jacket production. Based on photos of their previous work, the quality looked excellent – far better than the cheap import models. I sent them some reference pictures of Tony wearing his original jacket back in the day. The place I chose to go with, Speedway Jackets in North Carolina, said they could nail down all the colors, logos, fonts, etc. to match the authentic versions.

When the first samples came back, I was pumped. They had perfectly recreated the jacket design based on my references. The cut was sleek and athletic like a racing driver would wear. The embroidered Smoke logo and screen printed Home Depot colors popped just like an original. At this point I gladly paid the full amount for a finished jacket in my size. A few weeks later when the final product arrived, I couldn’t have been happier. With some aging and wear this custom replica could almost pass for a real Home Depot coat worn by Stewart himself.

The Thrilling Conclusion

Just as I had given up all hope of finding an authentic Tony Stewart Home Depot jacket, a post on Instagram caught my eye. A user named @nascar_vault had posted a series of photos showing rare merchandise his father collected as an employee of Joe Gibbs Racing in the 1990s. Among the items was a genuine #20 Home Depot jacket from Tony’s rookie season!

I immediately DM’d him asking if it might be for sale. He said his dad was hoping to get $350 for it as the crown jewel of his collection. I didn’t even try to negotiate; my quest was finally at an end. We arranged payment via Venmo and he shipped the jacket overnight. Opening the package was one of the most exciting moments ever – I finally held the object of my obsessive search in my hands!

It’s difficult to describe the satisfaction of completing a 15+ year mission to obtain a coveted piece of memorabilia. Whenever I go to NASCAR races now and put on that jacket, it attracts tons of compliments and questions from fellow fans. Some have even offered me big money to buy it, but I could never part with such a prized possession. The journey to find that original Tony Stewart Home Depot jacket taught me dedication and persistence do pay off in the end. That’s a lesson I’ll carry far beyond the world of being a smoke show fan!

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