In a sport full of “bad boys” three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart has crafted and cultivated an enduring image as the “baddest boy” in NASCAR.
Stewart’s cocksure personality and unique driving style characterized by equal parts audacity and bravado, is a perfect fit for the audacious and wild motor sport that he has dominated for the past 15 years.
Jack Payton is a car nut and motorsports fanatic in the purest form. He loves to write about everything gear related, and rebuilt his first engine at 15. He works as a freelance writer for the online tire retailer Tires Easy. In his spare time he enjoys cruising, following NASCAR, and collecting vinyl.
Whether he is sparring with fellow drivers, NASCAR officials, or equipment manufacturers, Tony Stewart has a way of always making things interesting. The sharp-tongued Tony Stewart is unafraid to say exactly what it is on his mind, which sometimes gets him into trouble, but certainly succeeds in ensuring that he will always have a large audience when the microphone is in his hands and the cameras are rolling.
The latest entry into the Stewart Outburst Archives came at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 25, when Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth were involved in a wreck and a subsequent skirmish, highlighted by a furious Tony Stewart heaving his helmet at Kenseth’s windshield and a post-incident interview where “Smoke” – as Stewart has been affectionately dubbed – vowed to “run over him every chance I get for the rest of the year.”
With that image vivid in our mind, let’s take a stroll down memory lane at some of the more noteworthy incidents – both on and off the track – in the storied career of Tony Stewart:
Tony Stewart versus Matt Kenseth
The recent clash between Kenseth and Tony Stewart was far from the only incident between the two. These two former NASCAR champions – who are reportedly friends off the track – have actually been involved in a number of spats going back several years, and if Stewart’s threats are to be believed there may be a few more of them on the horizon.
Back in the 2006 Daytona 500, Tony Stewart and Kenseth bumped against each other several times before Stewart intentionally ran Kenseth into the infield grass, causing him to lose control and crash.
“The 20 wrecked me, plain as day” Kenseth told his crew chief over the radio after spinning out.
“He has no room to complain,” responded Stewart. “He started it, I finished it.”
The two would clash again that same year, this time in the annual All-Star race, when the #20 and the #17 were again battling for position with one another and ended up crashing. Kenseth pointed the finger at Stewart for the accident, and Stewart famously fired back with a “If he thinks I caused that, he’s screwed up in the head” retort.
Tony Stewart versus Jeff Gordon
Stewart’s bad boy reputation was formulated in 2000 after a crash with Jeff Gordon in the second lap of the road race at Watkins Glen. The two exchanged heated and profanity-laced words in the garage:
Tony Stewart (rushing towards Jeff): Him and I, just him and I
NASCAR Official: No. Go in your truck and cool off.
Tony: Make up your mind what you’re gonna do. If you’re going to do it, I’m going to do it.
Jeff: I’ll slam you straight into the wall the next time you are near me… I owe you one now buddy.
The following year, the two tangled again at Bristol, when Gordon used the patented bump-and-run technique to zoom past Stewart on the last lap. Tony Stewart ran into Gordon in the pit row following the race, and spun him out. Tony Stewart was placed on probation for the stunt.
“It didn’t surprise me one bit,” Gordon said of the post-race retaliation.
Tony Stewart versus Kurt Busch
Like Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch is known as a strong-willed driver, unwilling to back down to any challenger. So it’s no surprise that these feisty competitors have mixed it up on and off the track several times over the years.
In 2007, Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart engaged in a series of high-profile disagreements starting at lap 154 at the Daytona 500 when the two got into each other and crashed. The two shook hands after the race and downplayed any ill feelings, but a few months later at Dover, Stewart dumped Busch from behind. Enraged, Kurt Busch attempted to bump Stewart in the pit road, causing a Tony Stewart crewmember to have to dive out of the way to avoid injury. Busch was levied a stiff fine and point dock for the move.
The battle continued into the next year, when Tony Stewart chased down Busch during practice for the Budweiser Shootout and clipped him from behind, clearly on purpose. Busch came back after Stewart and rammed him repeatedly on pit road.
NASCAR officials repeatedly held closed room meetings with Busch and Stewart and there were some reports – however unconfirmed – that Stewart threw a punch at Busch during one of these behind-the-scenes pow-wows.
Tony Stewart versus Brian Vickers
Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers expressed a great amount of respect for each other, but you could have fooled anyone that watched the 2011 race at Infineon.
Early in the race, Vickers was ahead of Stewart as the latter attempted to move up in the field. When Vickers refused to let Stewart pass nicely, Tony Stewart wrecked Vickers, causing him to head to the garage for repairs. Despite being out of the running because of the crash, Vickers returned to the racetrack and succeeded in his goal of running Stewart down and crashing him.
“He sowed his oats and then reaped them,” Vickers said after the race.
Stewart admitted that he had wrecked Vickers on purpose earlier in the race and included a warning to all competitors in the future.
“I probably had it coming because I dumped him earlier,” Tony Stewart admitted. “But I dumped him because he was blocking. If anyone wants to block that’s what’s gonna happen to them every time for the rest of my career.”