While celebrating Ryan Newman’s Brickyard 400 win on Sunday, Tony Stewart stepped up to the soapbox and lecture everyone about what racing truly is.
Asked how NASCAR or Indianapolis Motor Speedway could increase passing, the three-time Sprint Cup Series champion argued passing does not equal quality racing.
“Look up ‘racing’ in the dictionary and tell me what it says in the dictionary, then look up ‘passing’. We’re racing here,” Stewart said, as he lectured the media.
“This is about racing. This is about cars being fast. It doesn’t have to be two‑ and three‑wide racing all day long to be good racing,” he continued.
Throughout his career, Stewart has made many off-the-cuff and controversial comments, but perhaps none have elicited the amount of reaction as those made at Indy.
Immediately, the media and fans alike criticized Stewart’s comments on social media, while numerous articles countering his point flowed the next day.
This is not the first time Stewart has caused a stir with his comments. From calling out other drivers for blocking, Goodyear on the quality of their product or media members for the quality of their questions, if Stewart has an opinion, he’s not afraid to voice it.
However, Stewart is often contradictory in what he says and what he does on the track.
In 2011 at Sonoma, Stewart grew tired of being blocked by Brian Vickers and wrecked him early in the race. Vickers returned the favor later in the
event and sent Stewart atop the tire barriers.
Following the incident, the former champion made a clear statement to the entire garage, “If they block, they are going to get dumped. It is real simple. I mean, I don’t blame him for dumping us back. But I don’t race guys that way – I never have. If guys want to block then they are going to wrecked every time.
“Until NASCAR makes a rule against it, I am going to dump them every time for it,” he added.
Fast-forward to the Talladega Chase race in 2012 and Stewart throws a block on Michael Waltrip’s last-lap move for the lead. What ensued was a 25-car wreck that will make NASCAR highlights for years.
“I just screwed up,” he said. “I turned down…and crashed the whole field. It was my fault blocking to try to stay where I was. So, I take 100% of the blame.”
Yet when the roles were reversed earlier this season at Auto Club Speedway, Stewart went after Joey Logano following the race for blocking on the final restart of the race while battling for the lead.
Again, do as I say, not as I do.
While Stewart is entitled to his opinion, and his role as a former champion elevates his perspective above many others in the sport, it is difficult to take it seriously when it proves to be contradictory on many levels.
A dedicated racer, Stewart is the type of driver spends his nights behind the wheel of a Sprint Car at a local dirt track during the week before heading to the track for his NASCAR duties.
Passing and side-by-side action is a staple in most forms of dirt track racing, perhaps no more evident than in last week’s much-anticipated NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Eldora Speedway.
The action was intense and filled with passing, slide jobs and hard racing. Fans loved it, drivers loved it and track owner Stewart beamed with pride.
If the short track action – so full of side-by-side action and passing – is what Stewart loves, then is that not racing at its purest?
While Stewart’s resume and accomplishments in racing make him a voice that should be listened to, his often-contradictory actions make it difficult to do just that.