Some people have suggested that NASCAR driver Tony Stewart is simply misunderstood. Others have outright excused his behaviors. And still others have admirably referred to him as ‘NASCAR’s bad boy’. Finally, some have suggested that there’s nothing admirable about his behavior. He’s simply acting like a jerk. Count me as one of the latter.
I judge people by their behaviors and actions. In this case, Stewart’s actions include his on track antics, his off-track incidents, and his reactions to questions about these behaviors. After careful review, I believe there’s only one conclusion a reasonable person can reach: He acts like a complete jerk.
Stewart appears to believe that he’s the only one who gets bad luck, frustrated, cut-off, wrecked, bumped, and so on. Other drivers in similar circumstances regularly appear at post race interviews with their frustrations written all over their faces, but they generally handle their interviews with dignity and class.
Stewart comes across in his interviews as a petulant child who is in bad need of a spanking. You can imagine him as the bratty neighborhood kid whose parents always backed down and let him have his way after he threw a fit.
As evidence of Stewart’s boorish behavior, allow me to enter the following items into the record. There are so many incidents and such limited space, so I’ll just touch on a few highlights.
In 2000 at Watkins Glen, Stewart blocked and bumped Jeff Gordon, putting Gordon a lap down after Gordon sought repairs for the incident. After the race, Stewart got in to a shoving match with Gordon where threats and obscenities were exchanged.
In 2001, Stewart and Gordon were at it again. Gordon did a bump and run on Stewart at Bristol. After the race, Stewart spun Gordon out on pit road. NASCAR fined Stewart and put him on probation.
In 2001 at Daytona, Stewart was black flagged by a NASCAR official, but ignored it and kept racing. He later confronted a NASCAR official over the incident and incurred further action by NASCAR. He also got in to trouble for knocking a tape recorder out of a reporter’s hand, after the reporter asked about the incident.
In 2001 at Talladega, Stewart confronted the same NASCAR official after Stewart refused to wear the mandated head and neck restraint.
In 2002 after a disappointing finish at the Brickyard 400, Stewart punched a photographer and was put on probation for the rest of the year.
In 2004 at the Tropicana 400, Stewart knocked Kasey Kahne in to the wall and wrecked him. Kahne was leading at the time. Kahne’s owner Ray Everham said of Stewart after the race “…he should have his backside beat. That’s the problem with him. Nobody has ever grabbed him and given him a good beating.”
In 2005 at Watkins Glen, Stewart was fined and put on probation again for ramming Brian Vickers car after the Busch race.
In 2005 at Phoenix, Stewart came in second after a string of cautions. After the race, Stewart suggested the cautions were a fraud and that professional wrestling was more legitimate than NASCAR.
In 2006 at Daytona, Stewart was complaining to the media about how reckless driving by other drivers was going to get someone killed. During the race, Stewart was involved in altercations with Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch. But he topped it off by getting in to it with Matt Kenseth. Stewart cut across the nose of Kenseth’s car, forcing Kenseth down in to the grass where he lost control and went back up in to the wall. Amazingly, after the race Stewart said “Kyle Busch, he’s the one guy who’s probably going to get someone hurt out there.” Then, Stewart had this to say about Kenseth: “He started the whole thing and I finished it”.
In 2006 at the All Star Race, Stewart got in to it again with Kenseth ending with both of them wrecked.
In 2006 at the Pennsylvania 500, Stewart retaliated against Clint Bowyer after Bowyer accidentally collided with the side of Stewart’s car. Stewart waved his hand then smashed in to Bowyer’s car, who then smashed in to Carl Edwards. NASCAR immediately held Stewart for one lap for reckless driving.
In 2006 at Martinsville, Stewart got in to a shouting match with Greg Biffle after he thought Biffle blocked him.
In 2006, Stewart sought counseling for anger issues.
In 2007 at Daytona, Stewart ran in to the back of his teammate Denny Hamlin and then blamed Hamlin for not getting out of the way.
In 2008 at Daytona, Stewart and Kurt Busch exchanged bumps during a shootout race. Busch bumped Stewart again on pit road. During a conference with NASCAR officials, it was reported that Stewart actually punched Busch.
I could go on and on about incident after incident where Stewart was rude, sarcastic, offensive and so on. He’s said incredibly childish things in post race interviews and on his radio show. He’s complained and whined and spouted off. But it seems to me that Ray Everham said it best. To paraphrase: this guy needs a good butt kickin’ to get his mind right.