Jul 5, 2004
Stewart's at it AgainBy JR Nerad
You've heard the one about the best defense being a good offense? Well, NASCAR's Tony Stewart seems to be taking it to extremes. Over the course of the past two seasons Stewart has gone out of his way to boost his candidacy for an anger-management class. In fact, NASCAR officials have quietly counseled him to take one. But no matter what kind of counseling Stewart has received - professional or otherwise - he just can't seem to do what we were all taught in kindergarten, namely, "keep your hands to yourself."
The recent incident that followed the Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, is a case in point. Early in the race Stewart made contact with the car of rookie Brian Vickers, and then on the 85th lap, he finished the job, knocking Vickers into a crash.
All that you might ascribe simply to hard racing. After all, they don't award a Lady Byng trophy for sportsmanship in NASCAR racing, so why not go for the gold? It's what came after the race that was really telling. Reliable reports say Stewart decided to confront Vickers - why remains a mystery - and so he got in the 20-year-old rookie's kitchen while Vickers was still in his car. Vickers laughed off Stewart's criticism, and who can blame him when it was the knocker complaining about the knockee? So Stewart reached in to the race car and gave Vickers a swat across the mouth. Since Vickers was strapped in, it took Vickers' crew to pull Stewart off.
What's sad about the incident is that the highly talented veteran, who should know better after dancing to this same tune before, lost his cool, while the rookie barely out of his teens was able to keep things in perspective. Even sadder is the slap on the wrist NASCAR officials gave Stewart. They could have kept him out of this past weekend's Pepsi 400 at Daytona, but that might have been a deadly blow to his chances of making the Top 10 list of drivers who will battle for the championship in the final weeks of the season. So, instead, NASCAR fined him $50K and docked some points from him, a lame penalty for a blatant off-track incident.
One has to ask, does NASCAR really want to be the WWE? Or would it like to gain credibility as a big league sport? At some point, it has to make a decision.
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