Issue 1: Actions towards Media and Fans
August 24, 2002, Bristol, Tennessee- Following the Sharpie 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart allegedly shoves a female fan in the pit area. This incident would be investigated by the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office in Tennessee. This investigation is just one out of many controversial incidents involving the volatile driver. After the 2002 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Stewart shoved photographer, Gary Mook. This incident forced NASCAR officials to place Stewart on probation and fine the superstar $10,000. Stewart's own sponsor, Home Depot even fined him a substantial amount of cash. Most people say that Tony Stewart got off easy in that situation and that it has led to the belief that he thinks he can get away with anything. Another incident involving Stewart and the media, after a final practice at Homestead-Miami Speedway Stewart shoved Rusty Jarrett, a photographer who was standing in the garage area taking still pictures. Jarrett says that Stewart went out of his way to walk in front of him and shove him. Another photographer from the Miami Herald took a photo of Stewart pushed up against Jarrett. NASCAR vice president Jim Hunter opened an investigation on this incident. Hunter said the photograph taken by the Miami Herald photographer was inconclusive and Stewart got away with the assault.
Issue 2: Disobedience towards NASCAR
Tony Stewart has not only assaulted fans and media personnel; he has also assaulted NASCAR officials. During the New England 300 in July of 2002 Tony Stewart was involved in an accident. When NASCAR EMTs arrived at the scene Stewart became furious with one EMT who tried to help him out of his car. Stewart responded by striking the EMT. The incident was caught by NBC cameras, and NASCAR reviewed the video. NASCAR stated that they did not consider this incident an issue, therefore letting Tony Stewart get away with yet another assault unscathed. July 7, 2001 at Daytona, Tony Stewart receives a penalty for driving below the yellow line. Stewart becomes infuriated with the call by NASCAR and following the race gets into a shouting match with series director Gary Nelson. At one point during the confrontation, Stewart had to be restrained by crew chief Greg Zipadelli and car owner Joe Gibbs. For this incident Stewart was only fined $10,000 and his probation lengthened. Earlier this season there was an incident were Stewart deliberately disobeyed NASCAR. Stewart was running a Busch Series race and his car was sponsored by rock-rapper, Kid Rock who is billed as an "American Bad Ass." The words American Bad Ass were painted on the hood of Stewart's car and NASCAR trying to keep the sport clean asked Stewart to put tape over the word "ass." Stewart did as told and taped over the offensive word, but during the first pit stop of the race Stewart ordered his pit crew to pull off the tape covering the word, thus disobeying NASCAR authority. Also recently in a pre race driver's meeting at Michigan NASCAR officials were explaining new rules before the race. Stewart reportedly stood up said, "Can't we just go race" and walked out of the meeting. NASCAR sent Stewart to the back of the pack for leaving the meeting early.
Issue 3: Attitude towards Fellow CompetitorsThe biggest problem that NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart faces is his attitude towards his fellow competitors. There have been over a dozen incidents involving Stewart and other drivers over the past five seasons. In not one of these incidents though has NASCAR strictly disciplined Stewart. Here are just a few of the incidents involving other drivers that Stewart has been involved in, in recent years.
2000 Martinsville Speedway: This was the first of many major incidents involving Tony Stewart and fellow drivers. During this race the late Kenny Irwin was spun out twice by Tony Stewart. Stewart responded by spinning out Irwin's car, as Irwin's car was stopped on the track Stewart left his car and threw a pair of heat shields at Irwin's Ford. Stewart then proceeded to lean into Irwin's car window and began swinging at Irwin. This incident was truly an embarrassment to NASCAR, who fined Stewart a measly $5,000 for "conduct detrimental to auto racing."
2001 Bristol Motor Speedway: Tony Stewart feels that Jeff Gordon cut him off during a race. After the race is finished, Stewart rams Jeff Gordon's car on pit road. For this incident, Stewart is fined $10,000 dollars and place on probation (a move NASCAR would make many more times).
2002 Daytona International Speedway: During a practice for a 125-miler qualifying race Robby Gordon cut off Tony Stewart, the move sent proved unsuccessful sending Gordon's car spinning through the infield grass. Tony Stewart's car was unharmed, however Stewart took exception to the incident and shoved Robby Gordon when he showed up in Stewart's garage to explain what happened. Gordon's proceeded to shove Stewart back igniting a squabble that was separated by Stewart's pit crew.
2003 Dover International Speedway: Tony Stewart storms past reporters with a crazed look on his face as he is on his way to victory circle to confront race winner Ryan Newman. Newman prevented Stewart from getting a lap back midway through the race. After Newman kept Stewart from regaining the lap, Stewart nearly sent Newman into the wall during a caution period, made an obscene gesture toward Newman's pit crew, and yelled at Newman's crew chief, Matt Borland following the race.
2004 Daytona International Speedway: During a practice session for the up coming Daytona 500 John Andretti lightly rubs the car of Tony Stewart. Stewart publicly blames Andretti for the incident referring to Andretti as an "idiot" and says, "Wrecking people is what John Andretti does best." The next week at Rockingham both drivers sit down for a one on one conversation, but afterward Andretti states that he is still upset with the way Stewarts acted towards him at Daytona.
2004 Bristol Motor Speedway: Early in the race Scott Wimmer is forced to slow down rapidly as Ricky Craven slows in front of him. As Wimmer slows, Tony Stewart runs into the back of Wimmer's car. Later on in the race under a caution period Stewart bumps Wimmer in the rear and turns him around. Both Stewart and Wimmer are penalized one lap for the incident.
2004 Darlington Raceway: During the race Greg Biffle supposedly cut off Tony Stewart on pit road. After the race is completed Stewart confronts Biffle at his hauler to exchange words.
2004 Talladega Superspeedway: Tony Stewarts is involved in multiple incidents on this Sunday. Early on in the race, Stewart becomes impatient with Kurt Busch and spins him causing the "Big One" involving around twenty cars. After the race an apparently angered Stewart speeds down pit lane and has a small collision with veteran Terry Labonte. Some reporters standing by the pits commented that they feared for their safety as Stewart sped down the pit road. After the race Stewart met with Nextel Cup director John Darby, but was not punished.
2004 California Speedway: Just one week after being involved in multiple incidents at Talladega, Stewart is once again involved in multiple incidents this time at California. Early in the race Stewarts bangs doors with Jeff Gordon (for no apparent reason) damaging Gordon's car. A few laps later Stewart stuck his nose under Ricky Rudd's Ford briefly lifting Rudd's car of the track (again for no apparent reason). The main incident in the race involved Stewart and racing vet Rusty Wallace. Early on the race Stewart made contact with Wallace, later Stewart spun Wallace out ending the veteran's race. While under caution for the spin, Stewart flipped off Wallace, who responded in a race interview by saying, "I'm gonna jam that finger right up his rear end." Once again Stewart was not punished for the incident.
2004 Infineon Raceway: Late in the race, Tony Stewart gets into rookie Brian Vickers sending him around. After the race, Stewart confronted Vickers while still in the car. Brian Vickers says, "He wrecked me in turn eleven, then came over after the race and was mad at me." Tony Stewart proceeded to argue with the rookie who began to laugh at Stewart's tirade. Stewart taking offense to Vickers laughing lunged through the window and grabbed the rookie by the chest knocking the wind out of him. NASCAR is currently investigating this incident.
In past season NASCAR has suspended drivers for their behavior on and off the track. Last season NASCAR suspended Jimmy Spencer for a race following an incident where he punched Kurt Busch in the face. A few season back, NASCAR suspended Kevin Harvick for spinning out driver Coy Gibbs in a truck race. Tony Stewart has been involved in over a dozen incidents worthy of suspension, yet the worst penalty NASCAR has given Stewart is a $10,000 fine and placed him on probation. Until NASCAR parks Stewart for a race or two, Tony will continue to believe that he can get away with anything and the incidents will continue to increase.