I later learn that the father of one of Stewart's crew chiefs prepares the fruit in Canada, using four kinds of rum. "Them hillbillies ain't fuckin' around," Steve tells me. "That's about 200 proof. It's been marinating for about a year. We were in Knoxville once, and Tony ate six of those jars in about two days."
After eating one slice, I start seeing stars almost immediately. I actually have to sit down. "Fucking pussy," Stewart says to me. He eats a dozen pieces during the commercial break.
The radio show ends at 10 pm, at which point things get a little tense. Stewart has to be at Virginia International Raceway, more than 500 miles away, at 9 am to test a new car for an upcoming race at Sonoma. But the track at Eldora isn't flattening to his liking. "Alert the pilots," he says to his people. "I may be out here until three in the fucking morning."
Close. It's 1:30 am before he finally pulls himself away from the track, trailing dust. "I feel like Pigpen from Peanuts," he says.
We drive a few minutes to a tiny regional airport, where two pilots are waiting with Stewart's Cessna Citation jet, a must-have for anyone who drives in multiple racing series, owns four racing teams and a track and is a partner in two others, has his own foundation to help chronically ill kids, and has to drop into small towns at least once a week for promotional appearances at a Subway or a Home Depot. "Owning a plane can make you busier," Stewart says.
He takes a white plastic garbage bag, maybe a quarter full with clothes, out of the trunk of the car.
"Alabama Samsonite," he says.
As he gets onto the plane, he turns to one of the pilots. "You ready to crash this?" Stewart asks.
"We could only afford about half a tank of gas," the pilot retorts.
"Just remember to land it nose first."
Funny, except that I remember reading that Stewart's plane once hit a deer while landing in San Antonio.
Once we're in the air, Stewart opens a pill bottle, pops an Ambien, and washes it down with a Coke. He has to drive in seven hours. At some point, he needs to sleep. His head starts to nod almost immediately.
He leans toward me.
"I wanna be your assistant," he says.
Are you sure?
"I wanna come to Hollywood and lick the salt off of…"
Off of what?
"Pamela Anderson. I want to lick the sweat off her . . . her . . . breasticles. . . ."
With that, Smoke falls asleep. We land in Virginia about an hour later, and somehow he gets out of his seat. He stands on the runway, weaving, nearly falling over.
"I put in an honest day, man," he says. "No fucking around with whores or amphetamines or anything."
We don't get to our hotel until 3 am. At 9:15, I wake in a sweat to an unholy buzzing noise. I open my shutters and see that my room overlooks the racetrack. Stewart's trademark bright orange Home Depot No. 20 car is zooming down the track toward me.
The Ambien must have worn off in time.