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Tony Stewart staunchly defends payback measures to Brian Scott, Ryan Newman

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RICHMOND, Va. – The hard lessons learned by Tony Stewart over 20 years in the Sprint Cup Series are being returned in kind during his final lap around the circuit.

That has “zero to do” with the three-time series champion’s impending retirement, and everything to do with a firm belief in an old-school philosophy that the best way to express displeasure over getting roughed up is to play rough in return.

Stewart sent that message of payback to Brian Scott at Darlington Raceway last week, turning the Richard Petty Motorsports driver into the wall.

“There’s a lot of guys this week that were like, ‘Yeah, we were glad somebody did that,’” Stewart said about intentionally wrecking Scott in the Southern 500. “And that’s the way it used to be.”

Ryan Newman became another recipient of Stewart’s throwback justice Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.

Stewart admittedly cut off his former teammate, whom he felt had pinched off his No. 14 Chevrolet three times earlier. The contact triggered an eight-car crash and effectively ended Newman’s long-shot bid for a berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, which Stewart felt contributed to Newman’s aggression.

“He had to press the issue tonight and put himself in a couple of bad spots,” Stewart said. “There’s 39 other guys you can put yourself in bad spots with. Don’t put yourself in a bad spot with me and don’t start shoving me around the racetrack because he knows from experience I don’t put up with it.”

Newman was aggrieved about the incident and blasted Stewart, who became a close friend during their five-year stint at Stewart-Haas Racing.

“It’s a stressful night for him,” Stewart said. “He was trying to make the Chase. It’s stressful moments, so he’s going to say whatever he’s going to say. I’d say by that he probably doesn’t want to be friends right now. So it’s up to him.”

But his sympathy was limited because “it’s like how many times is he supposed to hit you before you say I’ve had enough of it for the day?

“He put himself in that position, and the end of it was the end of it,” Stewart said. “He has to make his decisions for what he’s doing in his car, too. So he can blame me all he wants, but he’s got two pedals and a steering wheel, too, and he has to make good decisions in what’s in his best interests as well.”

Though it seems unlikely the fellow Indiana natives quickly will patch things up, Stewart said he and Scott found common ground in a prerace conversation Saturday.

“We had a great conversation,” Stewart said. “He wasn’t mad when we left. I wasn’t mad at him. He’s not mad at me, and we go racing. He understood.”

The same conversations happened for him with veterans such as Rusty Wallace and Dale Earnhardt nearly two decades ago.

“I didn’t do anything different than what they did,” he said. “That’s how rookies learned then.”

He seemed to be hoping for a similar understanding from Newman.

“It’s not a feud,” Stewart said. “It’s one night. It’s one moment in time. When it’s over tonight, it’s over.

“He’s got a right to be mad about it, but I got a right to be mad for what he did to me. He wasn’t innocent like he’s acting. He never said once that he run into me three times. His version of how he was driving his car and mine are a little bit different.”

Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman ‘clear the air’ about All-Star incident

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CONCORD, N.C. — Five days after Clint Bowyer threw several punches at Ryan Newman as Newman sat in his car after the All-Star Race, the two sat side by side during an autograph session at a Bass Pro Shops near Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Bowyer was upset with Newman for contact that led to Bowyer crashing after last weekend’s race. After Bowyer drove to pit road, he ran to Newman’s car while still wearing his helmet — earning a rebuke from his team owner for not removing his helmet. After reaching Newman’s car, Bowyer unleashed a number of punches.

Both drivers talked this week before they got to the autograph session.

“It was good to have a conversation about it,” Bowyer said Thursday night after qualifying eighth at Charlotte Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600. “At the end of the day there were a lot of things that escalated very fast and obviously got out of hand.

“There’s one thing I can always promise you about something like that and it is unfortunate, and you hate having things like that happen, (but) that’s probably the best attended autograph session at Bass Pro Shops that I’ve had in a long, long time.

“Obviously I don’t want to do that every weekend. At the end of the day we all love this sport, we are all passionate about this sport and every now and then that shows a little brighter.”

Bowyer was asked if he thought Newman would retaliate.

“I don’t know,” Bowyer said. “Hopefully it’s behind us. We both have a little better understanding of how it escalated into that and you’ve just got to get stuff like that behind you.”

Newman said it was good to talk to Bowyer about what happened.

“It was good to kind of clear the air,” Newman said. “It is what it is. It’s the past. Just something you always remember. You learn about somebody in a situation like that.”

Newman was asked if he’ll race Bowyer differently.

“I try to race everybody the same way and that’s hard because that’s what I get paid to do,” said Newman, who qualified 18th for the Coca-Cola 600. “I try to give-and-take when I came. The way it works anymore with stage points, especially in the All-Star race, you don’t give and take. You take.”

Starting lineup for the Coca-Cola 600

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William Byron will start first and Aric Almirola will start second for Sunday’s 60th running of the Coca-Cola 600.

Byron, 21, is the youngest pole-sitter in the race’s history.

The top five is completed by defending race winner Kyle Busch, 2017 race winner Austin Dillon and two-time 600 winner Kevin Harvick.

Click here for the starting lineup.

William Byron wins pole for Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. —  William Byron won the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Byron claimed the top spot with a qualifying speed of 183.424 mph. At the age of 21, he’s the youngest Coca-Cola 600 pole-sitter.

It’s Byron’s second career Cup pole, joining his pole in this year’s Daytona 500.

He beat out Aric Almirola (183.069 mph), Kyle Busch (182.933), Austin Dillon (182.766) and Kevin Harvick (182.741).

“This is awesome, a dream come true,” Byron told FS1. “Obviously, I grew up in Charlotte so I came to this race every year. It’s a dream come true to qualify on the pole next to Hendrick Motorsports across the street over there. … Can’t think of a better way to start the weekend.”

Byron has qualified on the front row five time this year and four times in the last seven races.

The pole is the 12th for Hendrick Motorsports in the 600, which leads all teams.

Busch has qualified in the top three for the last three 600s.

Corey LaJoie‘s No. 32 Ford failed pre-qualifying inspection twice, resulting in the ejection of an engineer.

Click here for qualifying results.

Joey Logano and family mourn their dog

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CONCORD, N.C. — Joey Logano provided a sobering update Thursday night about the family’s lost dog, Luigi.

The dog had been missing since Tuesday.

Logano’s wife Brittany wrote on a Facebook post for lost and found pets in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area that the family’s French Bulldog got out of their fence Tuesday night.

“Our little Luigi I believe he’s stolen, I think,” Joey Logano said earlier Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “We can’t really put a match to anything. We put a bunch of signs up and things on social media and we watched the cameras at our house and we see him running around the backyard and then you don’t see him again. Not really sure what happened there.”

“We’ve learned that Frenchies are one of the most stolen dogs around. It’s kind of sad that someone does that. It’s a member of your family. It’s a jerk move. Hopefully, we can figure it out.”