Some people have suggested that NASCAR driver Tony Stewart is simply misunderstood. Others have openly excused their behavior. And others have admirably referred to him as “NASCAR’s bad boy.” Finally, some have suggested that there is nothing admirable about his behavior. He’s just acting like an idiot. Tell me as one of the last.
I judge people by their behaviors and actions. In this case, Stewart’s actions include his antics on the road, his incidents off the road, and his reactions to questions about these behaviors. After careful review, I think there is only one conclusion a reasonable person can come to: he acts like a complete jerk.
Stewart seems to believe that he is the only one who is unlucky, frustrated, cut, shattered, beaten, etc. Other drivers in similar circumstances appear regularly in post-race interviews with their frustrations written on their faces, but they generally handle their interviews with dignity and class.
Stewart appears in his interviews as a smug little boy in need of a beating. You can imagine him as the bratty kid in the neighborhood whose parents would always back down and let him get away with it after a seizure.
As evidence of Stewart’s rude behavior, please allow me to enter the following items into the log. There are so many incidents and so limited space, so I’ll just mention a few highlights.
In 2000 at Watkins Glen, Stewart blocked and hit Jeff Gordon, putting Gordon a backward turn after Gordon sought redress for the incident. After the race, Stewart participated in a shoving match with Gordon where threats and obscenities were exchanged.
In 2001, Stewart and Gordon did it again. Gordon took a hit and ran over Stewart at Bristol. After the race, Stewart spun Gordon on pit road. NASCAR fined Stewart and put him on probation.
In 2001 at Daytona, Stewart received the black flag from a NASCAR official, but he ignored it and kept running. He later confronted a NASCAR official over the incident and incurred further action by NASCAR. He also got into trouble for taking a tape recorder out of a reporter’s hand, after the reporter asked him about the incident.
In 2001 at Talladega, Stewart faced the same NASCAR official after Stewart refused to use the mandatory head and neck restraint.
In 2002, after a disappointing finish at Brickyard 400, Stewart beat up a photographer and was put on probation for the remainder of the year.
In 2004 on the Tropicana 400, Stewart slammed Kasey Kahne against the wall and smashed him. Kahne was leading at the time. Kahne owner Ray Everham said of Stewart after the race “… he should have his butt hit. That’s the problem with him. No one has ever grabbed him and given him a good beating.”
In 2005 at Watkins Glen, Stewart was ticketed and paroled again for ramming Brian Vickers’ car after Busch’s race.
In 2005 at Phoenix, Stewart finished second after a series of bookings. After the race, Stewart suggested that the warnings were a fraud and that professional wrestling was more legitimate than NASCAR.
In 2006, at Daytona, Stewart complained to the media that reckless driving by other drivers would result in the death of someone. During the race, Stewart was involved in altercations with Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch. But he topped him off with Matt Kenseth. Stewart smashed through the nose of Kenseth’s car, forcing Kenseth down onto the grass where he lost control and climbed back up the wall. Surprisingly, after the race, Stewart said, “Kyle Busch, he’s the only one who will probably get someone hurt.” So Stewart had this to say about Kenseth: “He started it all and I finished it.”
In 2006, in the All Star Race, Stewart returned to participate and Kenseth finished with both destroyed.
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 and then crashed into Bowyer’s car, who then collided with Carl Edwards. NASCAR immediately held Stewart for one lap for reckless driving.
In 2006 at Martinsville, Stewart got into a shouting match with Greg Biffle after thinking that Biffle blocked him.
In 2006, Stewart sought counseling for anger issues.
In 2007 at Daytona, Stewart ran after teammate Denny Hamlin and later blamed Hamlin for not getting off the road.
In 2008 at Daytona, Stewart and Kurt Busch traded blows during a shooting run. Busch collided with Stewart again on pit road. During a conference with NASCAR officials, it was reported that Stewart actually hit Busch.
I could go on and on about incident after incident where Stewart was rude, sarcastic, offensive, etc. He has said incredibly childish things in post-career interviews and on his radio show. He groaned, groaned, and snorted. But I think Ray Everham said it best. To paraphrase: this guy needs a good kick in the butt to get his mind right.