Stewart's helmet toss raises questions about fan demands
It was celebrated in Australia, cheered in Tennessee and viewed countless times on YouTube. While Tony Stewart's helmet toss thrilled some and enraged others, it created a buzz Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Stewart's action toward Matt Kenseth after they wrecked was the type of emotion many fans said had been lacking in NASCAR. In a race with 13 cautions, 10 for accidents, Stewart provided the night's highlight.
The clip of Stewart's two-handed toss even made "Play of the Day'' on an Australian TV newscast with the announcer quoting a line from "Talladega Nights.''
There will be some who will admonish Stewart, noting the poor sportsmanship his action represents, and they'll be right. Yet, some of those who shake their head at Stewart likely are the same people who have complained about the sport being vanilla.
Their cry has been to let the drivers be themselves instead of a company clone. Now that a driver does something different, some people will want to punish him and question the sport.
So what is it that you want? Vanilla drivers or those with spice?
The quandary is similar to people who don't like wrecks but say that this Bristol race -- which had more accidents than the last two Sprint Cup races there combined -- was one of the more entertaining races they've seen there. Some might even call it one of the most entertaining races of the season.
Face it, without the emotion fans saw at Bristol, racing would truly be cars going around in circles to many people. Just as without emotion a Red Sox-Yankees matchup creates as much interest as a rec-league game for some.
After once being schoolmarm strict, NASCAR understands the need to give drivers freedom to express their anger. Series officials didn't penalize Todd Bodine earlier this month at Pocono when he threw his helmet at Nelson Piquet's truck after they made contact and Bodine crashed. And on Monday it was announced they would not penalize Stewart for his actions at Bristol.
If such things escalate, then NASCAR likely will react but what Stewart did created more talk about NASCAR than anything that happened in the race, including Denny Hamlin's victory.
While some will look at Stewart's incident and say this is another sign that NASCAR is like the WWE, understand this: Stewart's action was directed by anger not a script. More at SI.com