‘Smoke’ through the years: A Tony Stewart timeline

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A look at some of the most memorable accomplishments — and outbursts — in Tony Stewart’s career:

  • Feb. 17, 1996 – Makes his debut in a national NASCAR touring series with the Xfinity Series’  Goody’s Headache Powder 300 at Daytona International Speedway. Stewart starts 34th and finishes 21st in first of 94 starts in the series.
  • May 26, 1996 – Starts first in his first Indianapolis 500 (after teammate and pole-sitter Scott Brayton was killed during a crash in practice). Stewart leads 44 laps but completes only 82 of 200, finishing 24th because of a malfunctioning pop-off valve.
  • 1997 – Captures the Indy Racing League championship with one victory and two podium finishes over 10 races.
  • Feb. 14, 1999 – Makes NASCAR Sprint Cup debut in the Daytona 500, driving the No. 20 Chevrolet for Joe Gibbs Racing. Starts second and finishes 28th.
  • April 18, 1999 – Starts from the first of 15 Sprint Cup poles in the Goody’s Body Pain 500 at Martinsville Speedway.
  • May 30, 1999 – Stewart completes his first of two “Double” attempts by competing in the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 on the same day. He finishes ninth at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and fourth at Charlotte Motor Speedway, later lamenting that he could have won with proper hydration and nutrition.
  • Sept. 11, 1999 – Becomes the first to win during his rookie season in NASCAR’s premier series since Davey Allison in 1987, leading 330 of 400 laps to capture the Exide NASCAR Select Batteries 400 at Richmond International Raceway. Stewart triumphs again at Phoenix and Homestead, winning rookie of the year.
  • Oct. 3, 1999 — Stewart is involved in multiple incidents with the late Kenny Irwin Jr. at Martinsville Speedway, the second of which puts Stewart’s car in the wall. As Irwin’s car approaches under caution, Stewart throws his heat shields at Irwin and reaches through his right-side window in retaliation. Stewart was fined $5,000 by NASCAR.
  • May 2000 – In a news conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Stewart apologizes and says he was misunderstood in a series of recent interviews in which he said expressed dissatisfaction with the state of NASCAR (saying some of his fellow drivers were “fake” and that Talladega fans were “obnoxious.”)
  • Aug. 13, 2000 – Stewart is involved in a postrace argument with Jeff Gordon at Watkins Glen International before they are separated by crewmembers. Stewart and Gordon had made contact in the opening laps.
  • Nov. 12, 2000 – Stewart wins the season’s penultimate race at Homestead, capping a season in which he won a career-best six times.
  • Feb. 18, 2001 – Stewart is taken to Halifax Medical Center after flipping violently and landing on teammate Bobby Labonte’s hood during the season-opening Daytona 500. He later reveals he was in an adjoining room when seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt arrived and was pronounced dead after a wreck on the last lap.
  • July 7, 2001 – In the circuit’s return to Daytona International Speedway, Stewart finishes 26th after being black-flagged for what NASCAR deemed an illegal pass. During a postrace tantrum, he slaps a tape recorder out of a reporter’s hand and kicks it under a hauler. He also confronts Sprint Cup director Gary Nelson. He is fined $10,000 and placed on probation.
  • Nov. 23, 2001 — Despite a tumultuous season, he finishes fifth in the season finale at New Hampshire and places second in points with three wins.
  • Aug. 4, 2002 – Stewart strikes a photographer after finishing 12th in the Brickyard 400. He is placed on probation.
  • Aug. 11, 2002 – Stewart wins at Watkins Glen International and confesses he spent the week worried about whether JGR and sponsor Home Depot would fire him for the incident at Indianapolis.
  • Nov. 17, 2002 – Stewart clinches his first Sprint Cup championship with an 18th at Homestead, wrapping up a season with three wins and 15 top-five finishes.
  • June 27, 2004 – In an altercation at Sonoma Raceway, Brian Vickers claims Stewart hit him in the chest while he sat inside his car. Stewart is placed on probation.
  • Aug. 7, 2005 – The Columbus, Ind., native ends an agonizing wait with his first victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the first of two Brickyard 400 wins.
  • Nov. 20, 2005 – Clinches second championship with a 15th at Homestead. His five victories comes during a seven-race stretch from June to August.
  • April 21, 2007 – Following a race with four caution flags for debris, Stewart compares NASCAR to professional wrestling during his talk show on Sirius Satellite Radio. He is lectured by officials a few days later at Talladega Superspeedway and placed on probation.
  • March 9, 2008 – Stewart lambastes Goodyear after finishing second at Atlanta Motor Speedway and says he is “going to go home and take everything that has Goodyears on it and put Firestones on and feel a lot safer.” He suggests Goodyear pull out of NASCAR if it can’t build a better tire.
  • July 10, 2008 – Stewart announces he will leave Joe Gibbs Racing after the season to become a co-owner-driver at Stewart-Haas Racing with Gene Haas.
  • 2009 – In his first season at SHR, the organization breaks through with its first victory, and Stewart scores four wins while leading the points for much of the regular season. He finishes sixth in the points.
  • Nov. 20, 2011 – Stewart wins the season finale at Homestead, his fifth victory in the Chase’s 10 races, becoming the first owner-driver to win a Sprint Cup championship since Alan Kulwicki in 1992. The surge comes after Stewart had declared his team unworthy of making the Chase in August.
  • May 6, 2012 – Stewart delivers a deadpan comedy routine during postrace interviews at Talladega, apologizing to fans because not enough cars had crashed.
  • March 24, 2013 — Stewart confronts Joey Logano in the pits after a 22nd at Auto Club Speedway, touching off a scuffle between their teams. He vows “I’m going to bust his ass” about Logano, who took over Stewart’s ride for four seasons after he left JGR.
  • June 2, 2013 – Stewart wins his most recent Sprint Cup race in the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway.
  • Aug. 5, 2013 – Stewart breaks his right leg during a sprint car crash in Oskaloosa, Iowa and misses the final 15 races of the season.
  • Aug. 9, 2014 – In a race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, a sprint car driven by Tony Stewart strikes and kills Kevin Ward Jr. Stewart misses the next three races while grieving. He later claims in legal documents that he didn’t see Ward, who angrily had approached Stewart’s car under yellow after a spin. Ward’s family files a wrongful death lawsuit a year later.
  • Sept. 30, 2015 – Tony Stewart announces he will retire from Sprint Cup competition following the completion of the 2016 season.

 

 

North Wilkesboro’s worn surface will prove challenging to drivers

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NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. — Three Cup drivers got their first chance to experience North Wilkesboro Speedway’s worn racing surface Tuesday and said tires will play a key role in the NASCAR All-Star Race there on May 21.

Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick took part in a Goodyear tire test Tuesday. That test was to continue Wednesday.

The verdict was unanimous about how important tire wear will be.

“This place has got a lot of character to it,” Reddick said. “Not a lot of grip and it’s pretty unforgiving. It’s a really fun place.”

Dillon said: “If you use up your tire too early, you’re going to really be in trouble. You really got to try to make those four tires live.”

Buescher said: “The surface here was so worn out already that we expect to be all over the place. The speeds are fairly slow just because of the amount of grip here. It’s hard to get wide open until you’re straight.”

Reddick noted the drop in speed over a short run during Tuesday’s test. That will mean a lot of off-throttle time.

“I think we were seeing a second-and-a-half falloff or so over even 50 laps and that was kind of surprising for me we didn’t have more falloff,” he said. “But, one little miscue, misstep into Turn 1 or Turn 3, you lose a second sliding up out of the groove and losing control of your car.”

“That’s with no traffic. Maybe with more traffic and everything, the falloff will be more, but certainly we’re out of control from I’d say Lap 10 on. You have to really take care of your car. … It’s really hard 30-40 laps into a run to even get wide open.”

Chris Buescher runs laps during a Goodyear tire test at North Wilkesboro Speedway, while Austin Dillon is on pit road. (Photo: Dustin Long)

One thing that stood out to Dillon was how the facility looks.

While the .625-mile racing surface remains the same since Cup last raced there in 1996, most everything else has changed.

In some cases, it is fresh red paint applied to structures but other work has been more extensive, including repaving the infield and pit road, adding lights for night racing, adding SAFER barriers, the construction of new suites in Turn 4 and new stands along the backstretch.

“It’s cool to see how much they’ve done to the track, the suites, the stands that they’re putting in,” Dillon said. “To me, the work that is going in here, we’re not just coming for one race. We’re coming here for a while. I’m excited about that.”

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup race at COTA

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Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, has attracted an entry list that includes talent beyond that of the tour regulars.

Jordan Taylor, who is substituting in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet for injured Chase Elliott, brings a resume that includes 31 IMSA class wins, two 24 Hours of Daytona overall wins and two IMSA wins at COTA.

MORE: NBC Driver Rankings: Christopher Bell is No. 1

Jenson Button won the Formula One championship in 2009 and has five F1 starts at COTA. He is scheduled to be a driver for the NASCAR entry in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kimi Raikkonen, entered by Trackhouse Racing as part of its Project 91 program, won the 2007 F1 championship and has eight F1 starts at the Austin track.

They will draw attention at COTA this weekend, along with these other drivers to watch:

FRONTRUNNERS

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 5th
  • Best seasonal finish: 2nd (Atlanta I)
  • Past at COTA: 19th and 14th in two career starts

Keselowski hasn’t been a star in road course racing, but his 2023 season has started well, and he figures to be in the mix at the front Sunday. He led the white-flag lap at Atlanta last Sunday before Joey Logano passed him for the win.

AJ Allmendinger

  • Points position: 17th
  • Best seasonal finish: 6th (Daytona 500)
  • Past at COTA: 5th and 33rd in two starts

The Dinger is a road course expert. Last year at COTA, he was involved in tight racing on the final lap with Ross Chastain and Alex Bowman before Chastain emerged with the victory.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Auto Club)
  • Past at COTA: Two straight top fours, including a win

Chastain lifted Trackhouse Racing’s profile by scoring his — and the team’s — first Cup victory at COTA last season. He’s not shy about participating in the last-lap bumping and thumping that often mark road course races.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Chris Buescher

  • Points position: 13th
  • Best seasonal finish: 4th (Daytona 500)
  • Past at COTA: 13th and 21st in two starts

Buescher has never led a lap at COTA and is coming off a 35th-place finish at Atlanta after being swept up in a Lap 190 crash. Although he has shown the power to run near the front this year, he has four consecutive finishes of 13th or worse.

Alex Bowman

  • Points position: 20th
  • Best seasonal finish: 3rd (Las Vegas I)
  • Past at COTA: Two straight top 10s

Bowman’s four-race run of consistent excellence (finishes of fifth, eighth, third and ninth) ended at Atlanta as he came home 14th and failed to lead a lap. At COTA, he is one of only four drivers with top-10 finishes in both races.

William Byron

  • Points position: 28th
  • Best seasonal finish: 1st (Las Vegas I, Phoenix I)
  • Past at COTA: 11th and 12th in two starts

Involvement in an accident at Atlanta ended Byron’s two-race winning streak. He’ll be looking to lead a lap at COTA for the first time.

 

 

Three Reaume Brothers Racing team members suspended by NASCAR

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Three members of the Reaume Brothers Racing No. 33 Craftsman Truck Series team have been suspended for three races by NASCAR after a piece of tungsten ballast came off their truck during last Saturday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The suspensions were announced Tuesday.

Crew chief Gregory Rayl and crew members Matthew Crossman and Travis Armstrong were suspended because of the safety violation. Mason Massey is the team’s driver.

MORE: Xfinity driver Josh Williams suspended for one race

In a tweet following the announcement of the penalty, the team said it will not file an appeal. “The ballast became dislodged only after the left side ballast container had significant contact with the racing surface,” according to the statement. “We would like to be clear that there was no negligence on the part of RBR personnel.”

NASCAR also announced Tuesday that Truck Series owner/driver Cory Roper, who had been suspended indefinitely for violating the substance abuse policy, has been reinstated.

The Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series are scheduled to race this weekend at Circuit of the Americas.

 

Josh Williams suspended for one race after Atlanta infraction

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NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Josh Williams has been suspended for one race because of his actions during last Saturday’s Xfinity race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Williams will be ineligible to participate in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. He would be able to return for the April 1 race at Richmond, Virginia.

Williams was penalized for a “behavioral” infraction, specifically disobeying a NASCAR request.

In a tweet after the suspension was announced, Williams said: “I stand behind what I did and I don’t regret any decisions I made. I stand behind NASCAR for these decisions and will continue and always support them.” He said Alex Labbe will drive the team’s No. 92 car at Circuit of the Americas this weekend.

MORE: Three Reaume Brothers Racing team members suspended

NASCAR officials ordered Williams off the track during Saturday’s race after his car was involved in an accident. Debris falling from his car prompted a caution flag, leading NASCAR to order him to park.

Instead of going to the garage area, Williams parked his car at the start-finish line and walked to pit road.

Williams was escorted to the NASCAR hauler office at the track. He waited there until the conclusion of the race and then met with officials for about 20 minutes.

MORE: NBC Power Rankings: Christopher Bell rises to the top

Section 8.8.9.I of the Xfinity Series Rule Book states that with the Damaged Vehicle Policy, NASCAR can order a car off the track: “At the discretion of the Series Managing Director, if a damaged vehicle elects not to enter pit road on the first opportunity or if a damaged vehicle exits pit road before sufficient repairs had been made and thereafter causes or extends a caution (e.g. leaking fluid, debris, etc.), then said vehicle may incur a lap(s) or time penalty or may not be permitted to return to the Race.”

Williams later admitted he had violated a rule but said he was frustrated by the NASCAR decision.

“We all work really hard and to only run ‘X’ amount of laps and then to have something like a piece of Bear Bond and put us out of the race, it’s really frustrating,” Williams said after his meeting with series officials. “Small team. We work really hard. We’ve got to make our sponsors happy, right? It doesn’t do any good sitting in the garage. It is what it is. We’ll learn from it and move on.

“I told them I was a little bit frustrated,” Williams said of NASCAR’s call, “but it was in the rule book.”