Tony Stewart insisted he wanted no bouquet of roses, much less ponies, on his farewell tour in his final NASCAR season. Cue awkward scene from Texas Motor Speedway, where Jeff Gordon received two ponies as a parting gift in 2015.
Stewart always has found enough giddy-up getting behind the wheel.
“I want to enjoy driving the race car every weekend,” Stewart said, way back in January.
The quiet and smooth ride is officially over for Anthony Wayne Stewart. Terrible Tony is back, just in time for the Chase.
And it’s business as usual for him, caught up in another anger-management controversy after his dust-up with Ryan Newman in Richmond.
“I would hope that Tony breathes a little bit and stops this retaliation stuff,” said Larry McReynolds, Fox Sports NASCAR analyst. “I know he’s trying to make a statement but you got a chance at a championship in your last year on the circuit. Don’t blow it by getting caught up in getting people back.”
This is twice in as many weeks for Stewart. He spun out Brian Scott at Darlington, which was just a setup piece for his deal with Newman. By intentionally wrecking Newman as payback for aggressive driving — and taking a lot of others for a spin — Stewart conjured up all the elements that make him: a) a wonderfully combative competitor or b) an insufferable jerk.
“Google Tony Stewart; you’ll see all kinds of things he’s done,” Newman said. “Look it up. YouTube and everything else. Quite the guy.”
Erstwhile employee and pal Newman also added the piece de resistance that made this spat go viral, calling Stewart out for “having anger issues” and “being bipolar.”
Stewart brings out the pop psychologist in everybody.
He is a tremendous driver and a three-time NASCAR Cup season champion who also quietly has done a lot of good charitable and philanthropic work behind the scenes.
He also is a guy with anger issues and whose life will forever be marked by an incident in a sprint-car race in New York, resulting in the death of Kevin Ward Jr. after the 20-year-old Ward got out of his car to confront Stewart in August 2014. Ward was hit by Stewart’s car and died.
Stewart was understandably shaken by this tragedy. Unfortunately the clash over the weekend will do him no favors with people who have marked Tony as an incorrigible hothead.
Newman, whose outside shot at making the Chase was ended by Stewart, didn’t do himself any favors either with his over-the-top remarks.
“Certainly too late for us to do anything in terms of a reaction at-track,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday. “After you hear the comments from both drivers, [it’s] disappointing in terms of how that played out and what was said on the air.
“We’re going to take a look at that now that we’ve got some time and certainly talk to both drivers before heading into Chicago and go from there. We’re still looking through everything to review the data and then have conversations with the drivers.”
Let’s hope the conversation leads to radio silence from both guys. Stewart, in particular, doesn’t need the controversial crossfire, even if he doesn’t get to ride off in the sunset with a pair of ponies.