FORT WORTH, Texas—Tony Stewart’s message to today’s drivers? Grow a pair.
The three-time NASCAR champion believes the bark from the current stable of racers is much worse than their bite.
Stewart has been less than impressed by the latest post-race scuffles as competitors attempt to defend their honor.
“I respect Joey Logano a lot,” Stewart said. “But to watch him push his crew guy with his hand, push him far enough away to look like he’s swinging punches is embarrassing. If our guys did that, I can promise you the Monday morning meeting would not be fun for them, because if our guys pulled that crap…If you’re going to run your mouth and you’re going to go over there and get in the guy’s face, you better be ready to fight or don’t even go over there.
“If you want to have a conversation, have a conversation. But if it goes any further than a conversation, it’s because you let it escalate to that. If you let it get to that, you better be ready to pull the pin. If we’re going to let these 18-year-old kids run men's cars, you better act like a man and not an 18-year-old kid. It’s time to act like a man.”
The racer’s first visit to Texas Motor Speedway was memorable. He won the pole for the 1997 True Value 500 and led a race-high 100 laps in the Indy Racing League contest before the engine failed in his No. 2 Menard’s car with two laps to go.
What Smoke—and everyone else—remembers most about that day wasn’t Stewart’s dominant run. It was the post-race scuffle that ensued between AJ Foyt and Arie Luyendyk. Initially, Billy Boat was declared the winner, but after USAC discovered a scoring error, the No. 1 car was posted second. When Luyendyk came to Victory Lane, Foyt slapped the Dutchman and tossed him in a flower bed.
On Saturday, when the NASCAR/IndyCar Champion was inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame, he reminisced about that moment and joked that he didn’t find himself in the middle of the row. Stewart added he’d love to hold a fantasy camp to teach racers how to fight. He invited Logano and Denny Hamlin to come to the media center, where he vowed to take on both drivers at once.
“I’m embarrassed for drivers in NASCAR and how they act,” Stewart said. “NASCAR needs to just let it be like hockey. In hockey, it’s organized and people don’t lose their minds and think it’s archaic and barbaric. It’s part of the sport.
“I honestly think if NASCAR would just let it be that way, and the teams would not feel like they have to coddle their drivers and if they just let the two drivers that have the problem handle it, you would be amazed how few problems they would actually have. When they get into that scenario, they don’t want to do that very often—they damn sure wouldn’t want to do it every week.
“If they just let them handle it, they’ll establish what’s right and wrong and what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable and the next thing you know, there won’t be any problems. All this pushing and patty cake and crap they’re doing, it’s honestly embarrassing for the entire sport to watch drivers get out of their cars and do this.”
Stewart called out Clint Bowyer in May after he left his helmet on and confronted Ryan Newman following the All-Star Race.
“It really upset him because he didn’t even think about it,” Stewart said. “He thought he was going to miss the opportunity. I gave him a hard time. I said, ‘Dude, if you’re going to fight a guy, take your helmet off.”
After watching the recent altercation between Logano and Hamlin, Stewart thought better of chastising Bowyer.
“But he’s the only one that’s tried to have a legitimate fight,” Stewart said. “I sat back and thought I shouldn’t have said anything to him. It’s embarrassing what these guys are doing. It’s an embarrassment to the sport to watch these guys get out of the car and do these little shoving matches.”