Long: Giddy Tony Stewart ready for more after Richmond run


RICHMOND, Va. — Any other day, Tony Stewart’s hand gesture is different.

This was Joey Logano after all, a driver Stewart has feuded with before. Their contact on a restart Sunday at Richmond International Raceway caused Stewart’s left rear tire to go down a few laps later as he tried to get back on the lead lap.

After pitting, Stewart was at the back of the field for the restart. Logano was beside him. Stewart saw Logano, stuck his hand out the window … and gave a thumbs up sign.

“That was fun and cool, and I wanted him to know to not worry about it,’’ Stewart said.

That contact, a 19th-place finish and “magic cautions,’’ as Stewart called the debris cautions when he was one spot away from getting the free pass, couldn’t ruin his first start of the season.

Stewart was grateful and giddy to return to the car after missing the season’s first eight races because of a back injury he suffered in a Jan. 31 sand dunes accident. He knows he has only 27 more Sprint Cup races left before he closes this chapter of his life.

Stewart was so excited after his 400-lap drive, he was ready to do it again immediately.

“I can promise you I can outlast these guys,’’ Stewart said. “There’s a bunch of these guys who couldn’t run another 400 laps. I guarantee you at 44 I can still out race a lot of these guys. If there is anybody that thinks we’ve lost it, we haven’t lost shit. So kiss my ass.’’

That’s the spunky Stewart the sport has missed, whose sharp wit and tongue have few equals. It was only fitting that the day he announced he would race at Richmond this weekend, NASCAR fined him for comments questioning the sport’s stance on teams not tightening all five lug nuts on each wheel.

Stewart said he’s not sure what he was fined but didn’t seem to care.

“If I believe strongly in something, I’m going to speak up for it,’’ he said.

NASCAR stated Friday that it would re-evaluate the issue.

“We’ll be patient and wait and see what they come up with,’’ Stewart said. “At least they’re going to fix it.’’

Nothing changed Sunday with several teams gluing four lug nuts on a wheel instead of five.

Stewart was having too much fun to mind. His radio chatter was reminiscent of the days he ran at the front. About the only thing missing was his “here kitty, kitty, kitty’’ call.

His quips had his team smiling.

“Man, a cold Busch beer or an ice cream sandwich would look really good right now,’’ Stewart radioed his crew about 80 laps from the end of the 400-lap race.

“Tell you what,’’ crew chief Mike Bugarewicz said, “you get on the lead lap, we’ll get you one.

“Not that you need to dangle a carrot before me,’’ Stewart responded.

After told of changes the team made on a pit stop, Stewart responded before the Lap 275 restart by saying: “I don’t need to know what you did, I just got to drive it with what you did.’’

Earlier in the race as he ran outside the top 20, he told his team: “They can run all these races during the day. It is so much fun during the day.’’

“That’s what is making it fun. You get in traffic and got five guys and they’re all doing one thing different then the rest of them. It is a good time.’’

Stewart beamed after exiting the car even with the mid-pack finish. He relished his battle with eventual winner Carl Edwards when Edwards attempted to put Stewart a lap down. It took a few laps but Edwards did pass Stewart on Lap 146.

“We kept him honest,’’ Stewart said. “He got by us and cleared us and I almost got back by him. I bet you go up and down this pit road and ask those guys if I’m back, I’ll bet a bunch of them will be shaking their heads and say, ‘I don’t think he was ever gone.’ ‘’

Count Edwards among that group.

“I was real happy he was back till about five laps into that battle,’’ Edwards said with a smile.

When the day was through, spotter Bob Jeffrey told Stewart: “Good job today. First day of school.’’

Bugarewicz told Stewart he’ll do a better job working with Stewart after their first race together.

“I think this is pretty good first day,’’ Stewart said.

A thumbs up kind of day.

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2


Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.


(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon


Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told Frontstretch.com: “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”



Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.