Tag Archives: Tony Stewart

The Time I Almost Met Tony Stewart

Unless you have been living under a rock, Tony Stewart announced this week that he will retire at the end of the next NASCAR season. Clint Bowyer will take over duties of the No. 14 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet. It was not expected but it was just the same.

I have never been a NASCAR fan who was into any one particular driver or drivers in general. I have always been into cars and the racing. That took me and my racing buddy who got me into this craziness to Indianapolis Raceway Park (IRP). Racing in Indianapolis took us from watching, what was then the Busch series at IRP and the Brickyard 400 to watching the same plus the Trucks at IRP. In 2004 we stepped it up to also watch the USAC Silver Crown race at IRP on Thursday night.

If you had ever gone to the USAC Silver Crown race at IRP it was a big deal; but more importantly if you had a ticket you also had access to the track and infield prior to the race. Many NASCAR drivers who, like Tony Stewart, came up through USAC, raced in this race and were there. We took advantage of that.

We went into the infield and started walking around the inside of pit road. We saw a lot of famous NASCAR drivers and soon to be famous NASCAR drivers. This is the place to be for hardcore racing fans.

We came upon Tony Stewart and my friend says “Hey, lets go talk to Tony”. I answered back “No way! He is working on his car.” So we didn’t.

There in front of us was Stewart changing his tire on his own car. There was no one helping and no one standing by watching. That is the Tony Stewart I know; someone who, as famous as he was, just wanted to race and worked on his own car. He was alone; no public relations people, no handlers, just there to have fun and race. Though I didn’t meet him that day I will always remember that. When they say you are judged by your actions and not your words, that is totally true.

Tony Stewart, I wish you nothing but the best the rest of this year and your final year racing in NASCAR. I enjoyed watching you race and your passion for racing. I’m sure the racing fans will miss you; I know I will.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 313029 Racing Photo Archives/Getty Images

Strategies to Win the NASCAR Sprint Cup

Last year NASCAR changed the rules on how to win the Championship the Sprint Cup. The goal of those changes was to make the Chase races more exciting. To put a do or die component in like other sports have where your championship efforts are over when you lose a game.  In the 2011 season where Tony Stewart won five races in the Chase and beat Carl Edwards to win the last race of the Chase and the Championship. This was the closest championship in history. To have a Championship get settled on the last lap of the last race of the season, that is what the new Chase is all about.

The Chase consists of three rounds of three races each after which four drivers would be eliminated. The catch was that any driver who wins a race in a round automatically moves forward to the next round. The final four drivers would compete for all the marbles in the last race of the season at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Winning a race, this is where some of the drivers and fans got caught. It seems simple. Win and move on. The problem that was overlooked by some was that the risk for racing for that win is greater than the reward, especially in the early rounds.

Points Racing: In reality one can points race. That is race in such a way as to out point the opponents. Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin did not win races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup but managed to make it to the final round at Homestead Miami Speedway. They finished 2nd and 3rd in the championship standings by out pointing their opponents throughout the Chase.

Racing for the Win: Jeff Gordon was racing for the win at Texas Motor Speedway and Brad Keselowski wanted it more. Gordon didn’t back down and wrecked his car. He ended up 29th in the race giving the competition at least 10 points but more importantly moving himself into about a four way tie for the fourth and final spot for the final race.

When the race ended at Phoenix, Jeff Gordon was tied with eventual Champion Kevin Harvick and one point behind Ryan Newman. Harvick made the last and final round by winning the race at Phoenix. Ryan Newman made the last final round as the last driver in on points.  If Gordon would have let Keselowski pass he would have made the last round of the Chase. He would have had a chance for his fifth championship.

Wrap Up: Although winning is always good, at the end of each round in the Chase it appeared that winning was something better left to desperation. Even in the last round of the Chase, the Eliminator Round, there were three spots available to make it to the final on points. Watch for teams to pay more attention to points and who they are actually racing against to move on to each and every round. The racing back in the field is more important than it has ever been.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Shame on the NASCAR Teams for Gaming Qualifying

Qualifying for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway was always going to be different. NASCAR announced well over a month ago that during the first round of qualifying the cars would be split into two separate groups with 12 cars moving on from each to the second round. Some teams overthought their strategy such that two higher level full time teams did not qualify and will therefore miss the race.

In the first group of the first round of qualifying, the drivers waited most of the round to go out and make their laps. The thought was that the first cars out did not have a chance of posting a fast lap as the cars behind would get the benefit of the draft and post a much faster time. As they say, it looks good on paper.

Denny Hamlin didn’t buy into it and went out by himself. He posted a slow lap but eventually got some benefit of the draft in order to improve but still paid the price for going it alone and was the slowest of that group.

In the second group of the first round of qualifying, Tony Stewart and Reed Sorensen did exactly what Denny Hamlin did in the first group. They went out alone and also paid the price by posting the slowest laps of the cars that were up to speed. The rest of the drivers did exactly the same as the first group, except they waited too long. Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, Justin Allgaier and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. did not make it to the line in time to take the flag on their up to speed lap. The official time for those drivers was that taken during a warm up lap.

So what exactly happened? There are six spots in the field reserved for those cars highest in owners points that have not qualified for the race on their speed (time). The 43rd and final spot is reserved for the most current champion that has not qualified for the race on their speed (time).  With so many great cars not posting a competitive time and so many cars that needed to make the race actually posting a time there was in a sense “No room at the Inn”. Justin Allgaier, 29th in points; and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 27th in points, were out.

Jeff Gordon will start last as he was the slowest of the drivers who are in the race by owner points. Although it would look like he used his past champion provisional, he did not need it since it was his spot if he didn’t use it.

In the end Reed Sorenson was the last to make it into the field on time since Joe Nemecheck was disqualified due to unapproved openings around the oil tank. Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, and Kevin Harvick—the drivers who were the slowest of those who actually took full speed laps—took the first three provisionals. Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, and Jeff Gordon took the last four provisionals.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Justin Allgaier, and Joe Nemecheck will miss the race.

Shame on these teams “gaming” the system in order to get an edge in qualifying. We as fans wanted to see cars running around the track nose to tail trying to get a fast speed to make the race. Instead we saw cars sitting on pit road waiting for the last two minutes then going on the track. It was stupid and looked even more so.

The silly part is if it takes about two minutes to get up to speed and make a fast lap why wait for the last two minutes? If all the drivers had gone right at the beginning and run nose to tail only the truly slow cars would have gone home.

Oh and by the way, Brian Vickers won the Coors Light Pole Award—not that qualifying at a superspeedway is important; unless of course you don’t.

If you cannot get to Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 it will be broadcast live on ESPN on Sunday, October 19th 2014 starting at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 302428 Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

Pos Car Driver Team Speed
1 55 Brian Vickers Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota 196.129
2 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe’s Chevrolet 195.732
3 47 AJ Allmendinger Scott Products Chevrolet 195.496
4 12 Ryan Blaney(i) SKF Ford 194.015
5 2 Brad Keselowski Redd’s Wicked Apple Ale Ford 194.007
6 95 Michael McDowell Jordan Truck Sales Ford 193.693
7 33 Travis Kvapil Little Joe’s Autos Chevrolet 193.603
8 5 Kasey Kahne Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet 193.498
9 32 Terry Labonte C&J Energy Services Ford 193.431
10 7 Michael Annett # Golden Corral Chevrolet 193.162
11 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet 191.302
12 78 Martin Truex Jr. Furniture Row Chevrolet 190.981
13 20 Matt Kenseth Home Depot Toyota 193.415
14 23 Alex Bowman # Dustless Blasting Toyota 193.376
15 99 Carl Edwards Subway Ford 193.291
16 21 Trevor Bayne(i) Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 192.401
17 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 192.278
18 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation Chevrolet 192.096
19 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet 191.908
20 27 Paul Menard Moen/Menards Chevrolet 191.773
21 38 David Gilliland Long John Silver’s Ford 190.985
22 26 Cole Whitt # Bad Boy Mowers Toyota 190.97
23 49 Mike Wallace(i) Royal Teak Collection Toyota 184.729
24 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford 191.577
25 34 David Ragan Dockside Logistics Ford 191.42
26 9 Marcos Ambrose Black & Decker Ford 191.214
27 10 Danica Patrick GoDaddy Breast Cancer Awareness Chevrolet 191.149
28 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet 191.134
29 40 Landon Cassill(i) Carsforsale.com Chevrolet 191.13
30 3 Austin Dillon # Dow Chevrolet 191.027
31 1 Jamie McMurray Cessna Chevrolet 190.818
32 83 JJ Yeley(i) Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota 190.689
33 15 Clint Bowyer PinkLemonade5HrEnergybnftLBBC Toyota 190.681
34 66 Michael Waltrip MyAFibStory.com Toyota 190.586
35 98 Josh Wise Dogecoin/Reddit.com Ford 190.507
36 36 Reed Sorenson Zing Zang Chevrolet 189.305
37 14 Tony Stewart Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet
38 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx One Rate/Deliverminator Toyota
39 4 Kevin Harvick Budweiser Chevrolet
40 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford
41 18 Kyle Busch M&M’s Halloween Toyota
42 42 Kyle Larson # Energizer Chevrolet
43 24 Jeff Gordon Axalta Chevrolet
DNQ 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
DNQ 51 Justin Allgaier #
DNQ 29 Joe Nemechek(i).

 

Gentlemen Have At It

The Elimination component of the new NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup has been let loose. Three Chase contending teams were put into a very tough spot at Kansas Speedway leading to more drama than we have seen in a long time at Charlotte Motor Speedway this past week. Tensions are high and tempers are flaring, so what can we expect this week at Talladega Superspeedway.

All in all the racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway was pretty much like it has been there and many other 1.5 mile speedways. Nothing really spectacular except after the checkered flag was waved the drama started. Since almost all of the drama revolved around Brad Keselowski we will circle around and try to make some sense of it.

Denny Hamlin:

On the final restart of the race Denny Hamlin was in front of Keselowski and Keselowski ran into the back of him. This caused Hamlin to lose six spots while trying to recover. Hamlin finished ninth.

On the cool down lap Hamlin admitted he brake checked Keselowski then Keselowski tried and failed to spin Hamlin out. All of this happened on the track.

After the race when they were out of the car Hamlin tried to fight? or confront Keselowski over the incident.

Matt Kenseth:

On the second to last restart Brad Keselowski was leading the race and Matt Kenseth got to his rear bumper. Kenseth swung out to pass on the outside and Keselowski moved up to block catching the left front corner of Kenseth’s car in the process. He blocked Kenseth all the way up the track to the wall. Kenseth hit the wall pretty much ending his chances for a good finish. He finished the race 19th the last car on the lead lap.

On the next restart Kenseth got his lap back and on his wave around swung wide and hit Keselowski’s car damaging the left front. This hurt the car and Keselowski’s day. He finished 16th and did not make up any ground in the points to remain in the Chase.

Brad Keselowski showed his displeasure with Kenseth by hitting him in the driver’s side door at the entrance to pit road after Kenseth had already removed his HANS and seat belts. In the process of all this Keselowski ran into the back of Tony Stewart.

After the cars were parked Matt Kenseth jumped Keselowski between the haulers and a fight ensued.

Tony Stewart:

Tony Stewart after getting hit by Keselowski on pit road, stopped, put his car in reverse and rammed him. Since Keselowski didn’t really have a beef with Stewart it ended there.

Fines:

NASCAR fined Brad Keselowski $50,000.00 and Tony Stewart $25,000.00 for actions detrimental to stock car racing and a behavioral penalty for being involved in post-race incidents. They are also on probation for the next four events.

NASCAR was in a tough spot. They created the new Chase Format to create drama and they got exactly what they wanted.

NASCAR got the fines and penalties right!. Everything that happened on the track was simply “Boys have at it”. Wrecking cars or driving recklessly at the entrance to and on pit road or the garage area is not acceptable. There simply is too many people who are not protected that are being put into danger.

This week at Talladega don’t expect any payback from the events of last week but will we see some more aggressive driving from Brad Keselowski? Will be see some blocking which almost always leads to the “Big One” that wrecks the field? Will some of the other driver be more aggressive? This is exactly why NASCAR changed the Chase for the Sprint Cup. It is a must watch event.

If you cannot get to Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 it will be broadcast live on ESPN on Sunday, October 19th. 2014 starting at 1 PM ET.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @brian_jr1 during the race and throughout the week for more NASCAR news and commentary.

Feature Photo Credit: 291439 NASCAR via Getty Images

Tony Stewart Has Been Exonerated in the Death of Kevin Ward Jr.

Saturday Night August 9th, Tony Stewart was in an accident that caused the death of fellow Sprint Car racer Kevin Ward Jr. Read about the incident here from Dustin Long at MRN: Driver Killed In Incident With Stewart.

At the time of the accident the local authorities found no reason to charge Stewart with any crime. Days later, they back tracked and proceeded with a full investigation. After that investigation was complete, they submitted the results to the District Attorney. The district Attorney decided that the matter should be sent to a Grand Jury to determine if charges were warranted. The Grand Jury has come back finding there is nothing that would warrant criminal charges. He was exonerated!

Technically he wasn’t exonerated because Tony Stewart would have had to have actually been charged with something and been convicted. In the media there were some articles and commentary that read like he had. On social media sites, some people were commenting the same. It is unfortunate because in the United States of America you are innocent until proven guilty.

When prepping to write this I was discussing the issue with my daughter. She wanted to know for herself what happened. When beginning to search on YouTube, she typed “Tony Ste” and before she could finish up came “Tony Stewart Kills Man”.

When the tragic accident occurred, the titles written were salacious and convicting at the same time. If you are innocent until proven guilty why would one write such a title? Especially since these titles live on forever on the internet. It’s done to get viewers. I even did it with my title on this article.

There is hope for Stewart; it has only been a few hours and if you Google Tony Stewart there is an overwhelming number of articles about him being cleared. Those salacious ones are still there, but they are buried deep in the list.

Unfortunately in social media there will always be people who made up their mind via those salacious titles and articles. They are still there. It’s disturbing because we do have a pretty good video. It shows racing. It shows a driver wrecking not unlike what happens just about every Saturday night in America. It shows a driver getting out of his car and walking down the track while cars are still running. It shows the same driver getting hit by a driver. That is what the jury saw.

The tragedy of this will live with Tony Stewart forever; as it will with every race fan that has seen it. It will live with Kevin Ward Jr’s family forever too. One can only hope that the Jury has spoken and that we can move on, heal and get back to racing.

Brian Berg Jr. is a NASCAR writer for BehindPitRow.com.

Feature Photo Credit: 286607 Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images