Strong opinions as the Chase rolls on to Dover

Ricky Craven would like to see Tony Stewart win at Dover and extend his stay in the Chase. Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images

With the presidential election just around the corner, it seems appropriate for me to declare my allegiance, my commitment toward someone or something.

Among my favorite quotes is: "Stand up for what you believe in, otherwise you risk standing for nothing."

That said, I am a tough sell, and getting tougher as I age.

So please allow me to clear the air on a few things:

I believe in the Chase.

It's taken some time, and there have been a few bumps in the road, but I love this format, I believe it creates entertainment, it's equitable for all 16 drivers, and most important -- it's authentic.

It's authentic because it rewards winning! That's something I have campaigned for since I hung up my helmet.

As I navigated the Dover Garage area Friday, I discovered only two teams -- drivers who appeared at peace with themselves -- Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick. Both demonstrated the value of having won a playoff race.

It's the purest form of competition when you reward the winners and incentivize those who remain.

This formula works; it has enhanced the pursuit of becoming a NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion -- period!

I believe Dale Earnhardt Jr. should retire.

Unless winning more races feels more critical than anything else in his life.

I have no tolerance for anyone challenging my view on this who has never experienced the residual effects of concussions. That's because it's probably self-serving and comes from a perspective of not what's best for Dale but rather what's best for our sport, what's best for our ratings, what's best for our industry or our bottom line.

I'm not calling out anyone. I am well past that behavior, but I will fire this shot across the bow of anyone interested in challenging my view. I experienced it, I had to overcome it, and I'm equipped to speak of it.

It's personal for me because I worry about the long-term effects of my concussions. However, I have absolutely no regrets about any step of my driving career. None!

NASCAR has contributed to my having a phenomenal life, and while I do have apprehension toward my quality of life 20 years from now, I have none regarding my first 50. Earnhardt is a wonderful person, among my favorite people. I trust him, I have confidence in him. He has helped make our sport better -- significantly better.

What we owe him in return is the liberty to make this decision based on only one thing -- and this what's best for him.

I appreciate Tony Stewart, and I hope he wins Sunday.

I haven't always liked Stewart, and in full disclosure I know he hasn't always liked me! But I like that he is "real."

I like that he speaks his mind, says what he truly believes. There's not enough of that in this world, and when Tony is gone, the tell-it-the-way-it-is meter will ratchet down a couple of notches.

I believe Tony is among the most talented I've ever competed against. I admire that part of him.

What I don't admire is his inability to control his temper, maintain his composure.

You see, how you act in life contributes majorly your legacy. How you react in life probably contributes even more than that.

Two weeks in a row, Tony lost his composure, essentially causing two wrecks.

While I appreciated Tony not ducking from the responsibility of what happened, I shuddered at the thought of the contingent of people who would associate Tony's behavior with the volatility in his recent past.

Ryan Newman didn't help any of that by telling the world to go to Google and YouTube all things Tony Stewart.

Let me be clear: I respect Tony Stewart. I also believe he is a good guy, and while I'm confident he wouldn't intentionally try to hurt anyone in a race car, those two weeks cracked the door open slightly for those interested in deriding him.

I believe Tony deserves better than that, but I also believe he is the gatekeeper of how he will be perceived.

I sincerely hope Tony Stewart wins Sunday. I want it for him, for his family, his team, his fans.

Most of all, I want Tony Stewart's career to end with celebration. I believe he deserves that.

The Bottom Line

Most of you expected me to declare support for a presidential candidate. I tempted you with how I framed the beginning of this article.

Fact is, I wouldn't do that. It's not who I am, not what I represent.

I have no interest in trying to persuade someone to think the way I think, believe what I believe. That's something I've acquired with age, perhaps wisdom.

Think for yourself, say what you believe while being sensitive to how it might affect other people. But do not deviate from being yourself. It's what I refer to as being "real."

I love my life. I love real.