After their run-in late in Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart don’t exchange Christmas cards this year.
Normally good friends, the pair seemed to have a difference of opinion over an incident that spoiled a potential top-10 finish for Earnhardt while knocking Stewart out of the race.
It was shortly after a restart just over 40 laps from the finish that the right front of Stewart’s car got into the left rear of Earnhardt’s fellow Chevy.
Stewart got the worst of the tangle in his No. 14 Chevrolet, which was unable to continue after making contact with the inside wall.
He finished 41 laps down in 41st, continuing his career-worst start to a season in Sprint Cup. The three-time series champion is ranked 30th in the points standings with one top 10 through nine races.
Stewart refused to speak to the media afterward, but his actions – cursing Earnhardt on the team radio, according to a USA Today Sports report, and angrily throwing his HANS device and helmet into his team hauler – seemed to indicate he blamed Earnhardt for the incident.
Earnhardt, on the other hand, saw things just the opposite – and wasn’t afraid to say so.
When Fox Sports asked him after the race what happened in the incident with Stewart, Earnhardt was mystified.
“I don’t know,” he said. “You’ll have to ask him. He hit me in the left-rear quarter panel. I was trying to clear (Justin Allgaier) on the outside of me, so I was as high as I could go. You’ll have to ask him.”
Earnhardt did take a swipe at Stewart, who is known for castigating rivals after accidents.
“Well, it’s never his fault,” Earnhardt told USA Today Sports. “I was doing everything I needed to do. I didn’t drive under. I didn’t drive into him. I didn’t move my line at all.
“He’s gotta take a little ownership in what happened there.”