Stewart happy after his first race back, vows not to give up criticism of NASCAR

Tony Stewart suffered a flat tire during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TOYOTA OWNERS 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 24, 2016 in Richmond, Virginia.

Tony Stewart suffered a flat tire during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TOYOTA OWNERS 400 at Richmond International Raceway on April 24, 2016 in Richmond, Virginia.

Tony Stewart was a happy guy Sunday at Richmond International Raceway. The driver and team owner had missed the first eight races of the season due to a pre-season ATV accident that resulted in a broken back. After surgery and rehab Stewart was back in a racecar Sunday.

His return was announced only days prior to the Richmond race. On the very same day however, NASCAR issued a fine of $35,000 to Stewart for comments he had made earlier in the week.  Stewart had criticized the sanctioning body for net enforcing a rule that requires crewmembers to put all five lug nuts on a wheel during a pit stop. Putting on fewer allows for faster pit stops.

Although no wheels have come off during a race, in several instances drivers have been forced to pit again with loose wheels. During a media event Wednesday Stewart, who has been vocal about NASCAR in the past, was critical of the practice of NASCAR not enforcing the practice of ensuing all five lug nuts are on the wheel this year.  NASCAR announced the fine Thursday saying Stewart violated Section 12.8.1 of the rulebook; actions that could result in a $10,000-$50,000 fine include disparaging the sport and/or NASCAR’s leadership, or verbal abuse of a NASCAR Official, media members, fans, etc.

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