Tony Stewart slams NASCAR
by Pete McCole
April 25, 2007
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Tony Stewart
Chevy

Tony Stewart took aim at NASCAR during his weekly radio show on Tuesday, accusing the sanctioning body of “playing God” in using phantom “debris” caution flags to affect the outcome of races following a rash of suspect yellows in Saturday night’s Nextel Cup race at Phoenix Int’l Raceway.

On his weekly radio show “Tony Stewart Live” on Sirius Satellite Radio’s NASCAR channel, Stewart vented his frustration at the seemingly endless string yellow flags waved for debris which have influenced the outcome of several races so far this season, comparing NASCAR to the likes of World Wrestling Entertainment.

“I guess NASCAR thinks 'Hey, wrestling worked, and it was for the most part staged, so I guess it's going to work in racing, too,’” he said. “I can't understand how long the fans are going to let NASCAR treat them like they're stupid before the fans finally turn on NASCAR.

Four of the six caution flags waved Saturday night were for debris, which some have said are fabricated by NASCAR in order to bunch up the field to promote a more exciting race.

And Phoenix was just the latest in a string of races that have been punctuated by debris cautions.

“I don't know that they've run a fair race all year,” Stewart said. “It's like playing God. They can almost dictate the race instead of the drivers doing it. It's happened too many times this year.”

Stewart was so upset at the officiating at Phoenix on Saturday that he blew off a NASCAR-mandated appearance in the Media Center following the race to show NASCAR his frustration.

“I didn’t want to go to the media center and bash NASCAR,” Stewart said. “It’s about the integrity of the race and the integrity of the sport and when I feel like our own sanctioning body isn’t taking care of that, it’s hard to support them.  It’s hard to feel proud about being a driver in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series when they’re throwing debris cautions.”

In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, NASCAR vice president of corporate communications Jim Hunter called Stewart’s comments “disappointing”.

“To hear that Tony Stewart said these things is very, very disappointing,” Hunter said. “NASCAR has been running races since 1948 and the safety of the drivers is our first priority. It has always been that way and will continue to be that way.

“We have more people and more resources than ever officiating our races. The safety of the drivers is our first priority. It has always been that way and will continue to be that way.

NASCAR has said they do not plan to penalize Stewart for his remarks, nor does his team plan to take any action for Stewart skipping out on the post-race press conference, as Stewart is not obligated to participate under the terms of his contract.

“There's nothing – zero - in my contract that says I have to do (the press conference)," Stewart said. "We do that as a courtesy to NASCAR and the media. The thing with the media is they think it's our obligation to do those things. It's not our obligation. It's a privilege that they get to do that.

“NASCAR is the ones that always ask us to go to the media center, so instead of doing what they wanted, they don't do what we want to do and run the race fair. So why would I go to the media center and make them happy?”

Since the start of the season, over 15 caution flags have been thrown for debris, including several that were waved in the closing laps that could have affected the finish.

“As soon as there is one piece of rubber off a tire on the track they’re all more than willing to throw the caution to bunch everybody up and keep guys on the lead lap,” Stewart said. “I don’t know how long NASCAR thinks it can treat the fans like they’re ignorant before the fans finally start turning on the officials and say, ‘Listen, let these guys race.’ ”

The author can be contacted petem@autoracing1.com

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