NASCAR goes light on Stewart

NASCAR goes light on Stewart

NASCAR has once again proved that what is good for the goose isn't always good for the gander. Last season, racer Jimmy Spencer was parked for a race for a post-event fight with Kurt Busch, where Spencer attacked Busch while still strapped into...

NASCAR has once again proved that what is good for the goose isn't always good for the gander. Last season, racer Jimmy Spencer was parked for a race for a post-event fight with Kurt Busch, where Spencer attacked Busch while still strapped into his No. 97 Ford.

Tony Stewart.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
In a seemingly mirror incident this weekend, Tony Stewart has been given a hall pass by the sanctioning body. Stewart's troubles stemmed from a post-race altercation with rookie Brian Vickers in the garage after the road course event at Sonoma. The brouhaha left everyone a little stunned, as the reason for the squabble wasn't exactly clear, especially to Vickers.

"He wrecked me during the race, in Turn 11, then came over after the race and was mad at me. I have no idea why," Vickers said. "I never touched him -- I just laughed it off. I think that made him madder, so he came after me."

Vickers was still seated in his No. 25 Hendrick Chevrolet, when Stewart apparently reached in and tried to drag him from the car. While Vickers made a point to state that Stewart did not hit him with a closed fist, the contact knocked the wind out of the rookie sensation.

"He got me in the chest, kinda knocked the wind out of me, then tried to pull me out of the car," Vickers said. "That's why my guys grabbed him. Here's the deal: It was not a fist and he did not hit me in the face."

NASCAR, however, has chosen not to be consistent in their punishments. Stewart, Wednesday, received a slap on the wrist from the sanctioning body. Garnering only a $50,000 fine, and losing 25 driver and owner points. He was also placed on probation until August 18th.

Stewart's on-track behavior has been in question for months. At Darlington, Stewart was involved in an incident with Andy Hillenburg and Jeff Gordon, which sidelined both drivers from the race.

At Bristol, Stewart was called to the carpet twice for rough driving incidents. The first, during a practice session where he made contact with the No. 10 of Scott Riggs, and later during the race Stewart booted the No. 22 of Scott Wimmer. Wimmer spun causing the No. 31 of Robby Gordon to wreck but was able to continue. While the field was under caution, Stewart rammed his car into Wimmer's, Wimmer returned the favor, and NASCAR was not amused.

"What the hell is the No. 20 doing?" a baffled Wimmer shouted over the radio.

NASCAR's answer to the Bristol infraction was to penalize both racers during the event, holding them on pit road and forcing both one lap down.

During the California 500, Stewart traded sheet metal with the No. 2 of Rusty Wallace. Wallace was adamant about his displeasure with Stewart.

"It's Stewart," said Wallace. "I don't know what's wrong with the guy. I like the fellow. He's a good friend. I don't know. He's really screwing up a lot lately. He got me in the back really hard at Bristol. He got me in the back at Martinsville. He caused a huge wreck last week at Talladega and then he runs me right into the fence this time. I'm on the outside right up against the wall and he comes flying up and drives through - knocks the ball joint off, knocks the side off of it.

"He completely ruins the car. Then he pulls up beside me and starts flipping me off on the restart. I wanted to get out of the car and whip his rear end. The kid needs to calm down a little bit. I don't know what's wrong with him. He's really frustrated for some reason.

"I'm not sticking up for him right now. I'm about sick of his childish actions. The boy needs to grow up a little bit. I'm tired of getting taken out by him."

While Stewart chalked the contact up to driver error, it seems as if Stewart has made a lot of mistakes this season. The 'big one' at Talladega, was caused, in part by the No. 20 Chevy. Stewart made contact with the back of Kurt Busch's No. 97 Ford turning him in front of the train of cars, thus being instrumental in the races multi-car crash.

"I got underneath him," said Stewart of the melee at Talladega "Then got him in a compromising position and I started to back out. I just didn't back out soon enough to get him out of it. Everybody can say what they want and the fans are going to say what they want to. This is a product of restrictor plate racing. If they want to script us script us and tell us where to run each lap and that's fine. We can do that too."

Two years ago, during Stewart's championship season, he was mandated by NASCAR to attend anger management classes after his temper got the best of him with several tour reporters and photographers.

Stewart has been on probation many times, but has never been suspended. Experts speculate that the latest blind-eye from NASCAR is in direct relation to their multi-million dollar deal with Home Depot, the sponsor of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Chevrolet, and the 'Official Home Improvement Warehouse of NASCAR'.

The penalty for Stewart also seems light in conjunction with Brian France's comments on the NEXTEL tele-conference on Tuesday.

"His behavior at Sears Point is not acceptable," said NASCAR CEO/Chairman Brian France. "How severe the punishment needs to be to make a point that we are not going to accept that, and punish somebody for what they did, that's something we are going to have to work through."

Apparently, the fiscal crew at NASCAR balked at that statement, and decided the corporate relationship with Home Depot was more important than sending a message to Stewart that his temper-tantrums will no longer be tolerated.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Rusty Wallace , Kurt Busch , Andy Hillenburg , Scott Riggs , Scott Wimmer , Brian Vickers , Eric Gilbert