After keeping a mostly low profile during his first season as a retired Cup driver, Tony Stewart took a shot at NASCAR officiating Sunday.
The three-time series champion was unhappy with a debris yellow on Lap 181 of 200 that changed the complexion of the 400-mile race at Michigan International Speedway. The race’s second debris caution helped spawn two more yellow flags that involved three Stewart-Haas Racing drivers in crashes shortly after restarts.
Clint Bowyer, who took over the No. 14 Ford from Stewart this season, slapped the wall on a Lap 187 restart, setting up a Lap 191 restart. Ryan Blaney made contact with SHR’s Kevin Harvick on the backstretch when the race went green, triggering a multi-car pileup that sent Danica Patrick’s No. 10 Ford hard into the inside wall.
Stewart, who was watching the race atop Bowyer’s pit box, expressed his displeasure with a tweet about an hour after the checkered flag.
Debris cautions have been on the decline this season with the advent of stage racing.
Sunday’s final debris yellow at Michigan also was curious because it mysteriously took so long to remove the debris — the five-lap caution was longer than the four laps needed to clear the track during the final yellow for the five-car crash.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. also was displeased by the debris yellow.
“I just wish, with the stages, I don’t know why they’ve got to throw so many damn debris yellows,” Earnhardt said on his postrace Periscope session. “The purpose of having stages was really because the networks want more cautions, more restarts because people tune in when we have a caution. They tune in a for a restart. That’s the whole reason why we have the stages to try to create a little more drama, so I don’t know why we keep throwing the damn debris yellows and stuff.’’
Stewart later added a few more thoughts on the matter and his opinionated style.
Dustin Long contributed to this report