Stewart says blocking unacceptable, becoming big problem in NASCAR
Tony Stewart defended his stance against blocking in NASCAR races Friday and defended his block at Talladega Superspeedway last year that caused a 25-car wreck.
Two weeks after nearly coming to blows with Joey Logano following the March 24 Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, Stewart didn’t want to talk about the late restart when Logano ran him down onto the apron of the track to protect his position.
But he did talk extensively about blocking Friday at Martinsville Speedway. He doesn’t like the tactic and doesn’t think drivers should pull moves like Logano did.
“I don’t like it,” Stewart said. “I never have. I never will. If you did a better job getting off the corner on a restart than somebody, you did your job.
“Then for somebody, because they didn’t do their job, to sit there and just try to block you and run you down the racetrack … is not acceptable. That is not what racing is about.”
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Stewart went after Logano after the race at California, shoving him and taking a swing at him on pit road. He then ripped Logano in a profanity-laced postrace interview and called him “a little rich kid.”
Stewart has been called hypocritical for lashing out at Logano for a move that Logano said he needed to make to have a chance to win the race. The three-time Cup champion triggered a 25-car wreck last October at Talladega when he tried to block Michael Waltrip on the final lap.
“I don’t like it at Daytona and Talladega either, but it’s the position we’re put in there,” Stewart said.
“What happened at California is a different deal. The people that are trying to compare the two — I’ve read who’s wrote it. It’s disappointing that they don’t understand the sport better than that, but there is a huge difference between the two.”
Stewart admits that he blocked Waltrip at Talladega and that some drivers were mad at him.
He said the difference at Talladega is that drivers are trying to make the driver behind him push him to the front.
“I fessed up and I owned up to what I did at Talladega,” Stewart said. “It’s the last lap of the race. I could have sat there and just stayed in my line and watched 20 cars go blowing by me or I could sit there and try to pick up the faster line and make that line push me.
“I made a mistake in doing that. But I think it’s ridiculous to compare Talladega last fall to what happened 15 laps to go at the end of the race on a restart. If that’s the case and that’s acceptable, why wouldn’t drivers just do it the whole race?”
In virtually every other racing series, blocking is handled by drivers — those who block typically get wrecked.
“I race all kinds of different series all across the country, over 100 races this year, and there is stuff that goes on here (in NASCAR) that doesn’t go on at any other racetrack across the country,” Stewart said.
“If you tried that, you’d be wrecked so fast.”
Stewart said there is a mix of opinions in the garage on the issue.
“I don’t think I’ve won three championships by making bad decisions for 15 years,” Stewart said. “I don’t have a ton of enemies in the garage area. There’s bigger feuds going on than what happened two weeks ago.
“And it’s not even a feud. I disagreed with him and what he did and he has a different side to it and he’s entitled to that.”
Stewart said blocking wasn’t a problem 10 years ago but that younger drivers want to block more. He said he learned from Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Mark Martin and Bobby Labonte.
“It’s not one person each week that’s consistently doing it,” Stewart said. “It’s something that’s getting worse. Somebody has got to tell us, ‘Yeah, that’s what we’re supposed to do’ or, ‘No, we’re not supposed to do it.’ People are kind of split on it. Joey thinks that’s all right. That’s his opinion. I don’t think it’s right.”
Should NASCAR step in? Stewart said he didn’t think so.
“NASCAR’s position has always been to let the drivers handle it. … NASCAR has got enough stuff that they have to worry about, they shouldn’t have to be put in that position of having to make that call,” Stewart said.
Stewart said he went on vacation after the California race and hasn’t talked with Logano. He said he’s not really all that interested in talking to him.
“Phone calls don’t mean anything to me anymore,” Stewart said. “If a guy is calling to say he’s sorry about something, that’s one thing. But I’m not going to sit there and argue with somebody on the phone about their opinions versus mine.” Sporting News