NASCAR Strikes Back: Stewart Fined, Placed On Probation
by Pete McCole
April 27, 2007
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Tony Stewart
NASCAR

NASCAR officials were none too happy with comments Tony Stewart made during his weekly satellite radio show on Tuesday where he compared the sanctioning body to pro wrestling and let him know it – calling the two-time Nextel Cup champion to a closed-door meeting with NASCAR’s top brass on Friday morning at Talladega Speedway.

Officials greeted Stewart’s no. 20 Home Depot team hauler as they arrived at Talladega on 6am Friday and informed the team they would not be allowed to unload until Stewart met with them.

Following the meeting, NASCAR announced it has fined Stewart $10,000 and placed him on probation until Dec. 31 – not for his comments on Tuesday, but for refusing to address the media following his second-place finish at Phoenix Int’l Raceway last Saturday.

Afterwards, a contrite Stewart addressed the media, saying his comments were unfair and hurt the integrity of the sport.

“It's a little tender for me to sit down right now,” joked Stewart. “The meeting this morning was a good meeting. The group that I spoke with this morning is a group of peers that I trust. If they tell me that the stuff is out there, I believe them.

“It's hard sometimes when you don't see it and there are a lot of times we don't see it and I questioned that. But I think their approach was logical. Instead of doing it in the way I did it - I should have went to them instead of just saying it out in public.”

Stewart’s stinging commentary was a result of his frustration over several “debris” caution flags that have been called in several races this season.

During his weekly radio show “Tony Stewart Live” on Sirius Satellite Radio’s NASCAR channel, Stewart accused NASCAR of using the debris caution flags to affect the outcome of races, comparing NASCAR to the likes of professional wrestling.

“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,’” Stewart said on Tuesday.

“I don't know that they've run a fair race all year. 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.”

After meeting with officials on Friday, Stewart backed off those statements.

“They didn't say anything about professional wrestling this morning,” said Stewart. “Some of the individuals felt like it was a personal attack on them and like I said, that group of people I spoke with this morning are a group I really have a lot of respect for. It's a group of people that I trust and until there is evidence to show me that what they are saying is not true, I'm going to believe them.”

“My frustration was the caution flags the first half of the race. But that's a frustration that's been building up for weeks with me was these debris cautions.”

Stewart said on Tuesday that his frustration with NASCAR was his main reason for skipping out on the mandatory media appearance, and that he wasn’t obligated to attend under the terms of his contract.

On Friday, however, Stewart said appearances were part of his contract, as well as on the entry blank for the event.

“I was 100 percent wrong on that one,” said Stewart. “It's at the bottom of the entry list that it is mandatory to go to the media center. It's not your choice to go. And in my contract, it does say that I'm obligated to go to the media center. So the fact that I made the comment that it's your privilege to have us...nope, you guys (the media) have 100 percent right.”

Stewart was apologetic that his public comments tarnished the sport’s image.

“I'm sure I did hurt the integrity of (the sport) - and unfairly,” said Stewart. “Everybody in this building has made a living off of this sport. I've made a living off of this sport. It's a lot of work and obligation.

“I'm a lot of times my own worst enemy. You can't fix 'stupid' a lot of times. I'm getting better about not saying stupid things at the wrong times, but I haven't totally cured it yet.”

The author can be contacted petem@autoracing1.com

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