Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman met with NASCAR officials at Chicagoland Speedway Friday. The meeting came a few days after the two former teammates sparred on the track at Richmond last Saturday night.
With less than 40 laps remaining in the Federated Auto Parts 400, Newman was fighting to get inside the top 10 and hoping to earn enough points to make the Chase. Newman was contesting a spot with Stewart and the two got together exiting turn 2 and swept up Carl Edwards on the backstretch.
Newman and Edwards shot back up the track sweeping up Dylan Lupton, David Ragan, and Brian Scott. The car of Lupton ended up on the top of Newman’s car, while Stewart’s car rolled to a stop on fire on the frontstretch ; Stewart was able to exit his car uninjured. Ragan’s car was also on fire but it was quickly extinguished. Newman would be credited with a 28th place finish, Stewart 33rd. Newman failed to make the Chase, Stewart was in.
NASCAR was forced to stop the race for just over 20 minutes for clean up. After being checked at the infield care center, he had some unkind words for Stewart.
“Oh, I’m fine,” Newman said. “I think it was pretty obvious watching the video. I don’t even have to watch it. The No. 14 (Tony Stewart) cut across my nose into Turn 1 and I got into him after that, but he’d already chopped into me and messed up my line and I clipped him a little bit coming off of (Turn) 2; but he just cut across my nose. Going down the back straightaway there.”
“I guess he thought he was in a Sprint Car again; did not know how to control his anger,” Newman added referencing an August 2014 incident where Stewart ran over Kevin Ward Jr. at a sprint car race in upstate New York. Ward died of his injuries, Stewart was cleared of all charges in the incident. “It’s just disappointing that you’ve got somebody old like that, that should be retired the way he drives. It’s just ridiculous.”
Stewart was a little more level headed. He didn’t comment on the incident until later. The three-time champion, who did make the Chase field in his final year, seemed a bit more conciliatory towards his former employee.
“ He was right,” Stewart said. “That was the third time he’d driven into me during the night, and how many times does a guy get a free pass until you’ve had enough of it? He’s got to do his part racing for a championship, too, and to race to get in there, and if you’re going to run into guys — I go into 1 and he dive bombs in there. I’m already coming down, so it’s not like I was trying to squeeze him in the infield or something. Ryan and I have been good friends. I don’t do that to him. But he hits me in one, he hits me off of 2, and it’s like the third time by that time. There was once early in the race that nobody saw. Three times, that’s two more times than I normally let somebody run into me.”
Fast forward to Friday when both drivers were summoned to a meeting with NASCAR officials. NASCAR executives are no doubt trying to avoid the type of feud that occurred in last year’s Chase that culminated in Matt Kenseth deliberately wrecking Joey Logano at Martinsville. Kenseth was suspended for two races, and both he and Logano failed to advance in the Chase.
After the meeting Friday both drivers faced assembled media. Neither driver said they had to apologize.
“We don’t have to apologize (to each other),” Newman said.
“You have to remember, we’ve been teammates, we’ve known each other since long before either one of us got an opportunity to come to NASCAR,” said Stewart.
“I’ll text you an apology,” Newman quipped as Stewart laughed.
Newman was one of the first drivers to be hired by Stewart when the three-time champion started his own race team in 2008. Newman raced for Stewart-Haas Racing from 2009-2013 scoring four Cup wins. Newman was eventually hired by Richard Childress Racing.
Friday, Newman said the Richmond incident won’t change the way he races his former boss, or any other driver on the track.
“I’ve never changed how I’ve raced anybody,” Newman said. “If you look at it, I’m not the guy that goes out there and just intentionally takes somebody out. I don’t ever want to think that, much less do it. … I’m here to win and in order to do that I have to race.”
Stewart seemed irritated as reporters asked if the any sort of feud might simmer in the future.
“This is the frustrating part for both of us,” Stewart said, “because we get poked and prodded about it and we’re ready to move on.
“It’s a deal where we’ve had a week to think about it, “ he added. “We’ve had a week to get over it; we’ve been in the (NASCAR) trailer and talked about it and as far as we’re concerned it’s over.”
“It’s just words, right? I think more often than not we’re men of action,” Newman said. “It’s all about going out there and doing our job. We all know it can be frustrating at times, whether it’s intentional or not.”
Stewart admitted that the meeting was needed.
“We’ve been friends for a long time,” Stewart said. “So yeah, it was important for us to be in there and talk about it.”
Whether the two drivers will continue any sort of grudge on the track remains to be seen. However given the fact that both drivers are now on NASCAR’s radar, and the mutual respect they displayed towards each other Friday, make it highly unlikely.