The Frontstretch: Finally! One Driver Aspires to Claim NASCAR's "Black Hat" by Jeff Meyer -- Wednesday April 25, 2007

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Finally! One Driver Aspires to Claim NASCAR's "Black Hat"

Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Wednesday April 25, 2007

 

After escaping into the Arizona desert earlier this week from a media posse, Tony Stewart strode boldly back into town, pulled out the six shooter, and began blazing away! Granted, Sheriff France is out of town on trip to see the wonders of the Orient, but he will come back, and when he does, we will really see who has the bigger gun!

Appearing on his satellite radio program Tuesday night, Stewart came to the gunfight with his ammunition already packed and loaded. Asked why he skipped out on his post-race interview session the Saturday before, he wasted no time pulling out the gun, aiming, pointing, and BAM! Firing dead center on the captivated audience. The issue bugging Stewart, apparently, was the way in which NASCAR’s mystery “cautions” have been controlling races…and the bullets he spouted out cut hard and deep.

“It’s like playing God. They can almost dictate the race instead of the drivers doing it. It’s happened too many times this year," said Stewart. “To me, it’s not all about the money, it’s about the integrity of the sport, and when I feel our own sanctioning body isn’t taking care of that, it’s hard to support them and feel proud about being a driver in the Nextel Cup Series when they’re throwing debris cautions."

Well, Mr. Stewart, let me buy you a beverage! Finally, someone within the NASCAR ranks has the lugnuts to call a spade a spade. And, with no disrespect to some of the less popular drivers, this guy happens to be someone who is immensely popular amongst NASCAR fans.

As with any driver of Stewart's stature within the sacred fan base, he also has almost as many detractors. However, whether you like him or not, if you are any type of REAL racing fan, you have to admit that Stewart has a point.

"But enough of it’s gone on (debris cautions) that fans are writing in and talking about it. At what point does NASCAR get the hint? I guess NASCAR thinks, ‘Hey, wrestling worked, and it was for the most part staged, so I guess it’s going to work in racing, too,‘" continued Stewart, unafraid to keep firing away.

So far this season, out of 72 total caution flags waved at a Cup race, 20 of those have been for debris. Do you remember, even with all the cameras that they got at the track nowadays, seeing twenty legitimate pieces of debris? Nope, I don’t either. Yes, there are those of you out there that will write in and say that Tony is just whining, but he is not alone when it comes to his supposition. Why, even Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon went on record to say the very same thing at Fontana in February, when a late, race-deciding “debris caution” was unwarranted. Of course, neither Johnson nor Gordon would ever use the tact that Tony used, as they are both too concerned about PCBS. (PC stands for political correctness; you figure out the rest.)

Stewart went on to say something else that leads me to believe he must be nothing but an avid reader of this column.

“I can’t understand how long the fans are going to let NASCAR treat them like they’re stupid before the fans finally turn on NASCAR,” he said. “I don’t know that they’ve run a fair race all year.”

NASCAR thinks the fans are stupid?! Gee, where have I heard that before? Maybe in just about every third column I have written for the last 3 or so years!

Folks, the simple truth is that NASCAR DOES think you are stupid. I urge you to support Tony Stewart during the inevitable backlash that is sure to come against him once Sheriff France returns from his travels seeking Communist dollars. Whether you like him or not, the truths he has boldly proclaimed are based in fact. Any true race fan can see that.

I'll proudly stand with you, Tony! I'll do what I can to cover your back with my mighty keyboard.

Stay off the wall, (unless you happen to be on the Great Wall and see Sheriff France standing just a little too close to the edge…)

Jeff Meyer

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Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
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Sean Decker
04/26/2007 07:33 AM
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Well, Jeff according to the table on Jayski’s page there been fewer cautions this year through the first eight races than that last two years to this point in the season. There have also been FEWER debris cautions as well. By percentage of cautions 2007 splits the difference between 2006 and 2005. So I’m not so sure about these complaints being based in fact.

I’m also not too sure given the number of boneheaded things Tony Stewart has done or said that I trust his judgement as far as I can throw him.

Tony Stewart is a brilliant race car driver, maybe the best driver in the sport at the moment but given his nearly constant ability to allow anger to rule his decision making processes I think I’ll wait until someone with a cooler perspective opens their mouth.

I’m not saying that NASCAR hasn’t thrown tha caution to artificially alter the racing but I think I’ll wait until someone a little more emotionally stable to make that claim.

Sorry

Ed
04/26/2007 09:16 AM
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Way to go Tony and great column, Jeff. I have been waiting for a driver to have the guts to speak up. Now let’s see if there is a team owner who will have the courage to say something. Nascar has been known for years to throw cautions to “spice” up the race. Lately they have become so obviously timed to change the outcome and cause a short shootout to determine a winner that it’s ridiculous. I have simply quit watching the “races” because of it. I have been a fan since the 1960’s, but my enthusiasm has been waning for the last 3 or 4 years to the point that I am about to turn my back completely on NASCAR.

Frank Murphy
04/26/2007 09:33 AM
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Tony is absolutely right,this has ben going on for at least 2or3 years.These debri cautions are also being used to control who gets the lucky dog free pass,usually a Hendrick car.Nascar is getting more like wrestling all the time,in fact I expect we ll see the Undertaker attemptihg to Qualify a hearse at some track very soon.

Michael Kiesler
04/26/2007 09:49 AM
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Don’t forget that even Mark Martin complained about debris cautions – saying that they come out for things that they shouldn’t (like paper and duct tape).
Mr. Decker quoted the Jayski page and says the debris cautions are the same. Taking data from the most recent 3 year span is no way to accurately compare something. Take data from the last 20 years and you might have a begining of a more acurate trend. Don’t forget that Bill France Jr has been in charge during the last 3 years, not the last 20.

Brian France Sucks
04/26/2007 09:54 AM
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While Sean Decker may be right that there have been fewer cautions/debris cautions this year, its all about the timing. Helton and the rest of the knuckleheads throw these cautions at the most peculiar times(like when they want to spice up the so-called action). You can pretty much count on one coming out in the 50-20 to go window if they deem the racing to be subpar. By subpar I mean one guy checking out on the field. Think I’m full of it? Look back at Fontana, Atlanta, or some of the past few seasons. Kudos to Tony; while I’m not a fan of the 20 team, you’ve got to hand it to Stewie for voicing what many of us recognize to be true.

Jeff
04/26/2007 10:19 AM
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Tony’s only complaining because the caution didn’t benefit him. But no of the others really hurt him either. All of the other cautions gave him and his team a chance to work on the car to keep up with the track as it did with all of the other teams. I’ve never heard a driver in victory lane that benefitted from a “bogus” caution ever complain about it. Only 2nd-5th place cars seem to complain about it. Face it, had Tony won the race there would be no mention of this whole thing. Well a least not to this level. I’m sorry Tony is having a bad start to his year. I do not agree with the “bogus” cautions that have been thrown in the past and I do agree that there are more than there needs to be but this is the way it’s going to be. Just the COT. Like it or love it, it’s the way it’s going to be per NASCAR.

im so over nascar
04/26/2007 10:26 AM
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Say what you will, Sean, but it’s still turning a lot of fans away, myself included. Tony isn’t the only one to be screwed by NASCAR and he isn’t the only one complaining. He just isn’t afraid to say what’s on his mind unlike some of the mealy-mouthed ninnies posing as drivers these days. As for emotional stability, I think he made a good choice by not flipping out after he had the race stolen from him and waiting until he had some time to think about it.

KJ Moyer
04/26/2007 10:28 AM
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Way to go Jeff and Smoke! Debris cautions have gotten to be sort of a joke in my family. Only it’s not so funny for the competitors I’m sure. This is a good start on calling out NASCAR on their “rules” which seem to be written in pencil.

Jim
04/26/2007 10:51 AM
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Kudos to you and Tony for finally calling it like it is! And forget about “Jayski’s table”. This crap has been going on forever in Nascar, not just in the last 2 – 3 years. Debri cautions are just the tip of the iceberg. What about the mysterious pit road speeding penalties that seem to come out of nowhere and with no proof from Nascar. Why doesn’t Nascar allow the drivers, teams, or media see the actual pit road speeds when a penalty is assessed? Oh and lets not forget about the preferred driver caution! The perfect example of this was at Bristol a few weeks ago. Scott Riggs bounced off the wall hard within the first 50 laps, cut down a tire and limped around the track for a full lap but no caution was ever waved, and rightfully so. Cut to the end of the race when the exact same thing happens to Jimmie Johnson and Nascar can’t turn on the yellow lights fast enough! How many times have we seen mid and backpackers have problems on the track but can’t buy a caution, but if one of the super stars so much as gets a toe cramp, the flag comes out. At least wrestling finally came clean with the general public and admitted it was just entertainment. How long will Nascar keep up the “hey we’re legitimate sport” fight?

M. B. Voelker
04/26/2007 10:55 AM
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There is nothing either villianous or heroic about throwing tantrums and sulking.

If a serious, thoughtful driver like Jeff Burton had spoken I’d be listening. But Tony has spent too much time over the years making noise with his brain uncoupled from his mouth for me to believe a word. I think he’s just throwing up a smokescreen to distract people from his unsportsmanlike behavior after Phoenix by ranting about a hot-button issue that would get fans on his side.

I’d like to like guy. He’s an incredible driver and a giving, charitable human being. But I have 4 kids so fits of childishness leave me utterly unimpressed.

Serious question here for all of Tony’s supporters who are parents:

Would you tolerate Tony’s behavior if it was coming from your kid?

T Pistone
04/26/2007 11:43 AM
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I have four grown children and been a Nascar fan for forty plus years. For the past ten years I worked with Nascar teams both on and off the track. Yes, I listen to my children and will support their opinions when expressed with fervor and passion to correct an obvious wrong. I noticed many of the previous posts are critical of not what is said, but who said it. If it is not your “favorite” driver speaking, you will not listen. The France Family sold this sport to the New York “suits” and it has been on a back slide ever since.

Thank you Tony for stepping up and speaking out for many true Nascar fans. We need more drivers in the sport like you, and fewer prima Donnas’s who can’t open their mouth unless they have a sponsor’s prop in their hand.

GENE
04/26/2007 12:01 PM
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brian france is a spoiled little kid with no knowlage of nascar, except the money daddy gave him. true race fans love to see emotion on and off the track. that’s part of racing or any sport. let them race and not help different drivers win with false cautions. we fans are not dump. we just love true nascar racing…..

jdw0955
04/26/2007 12:19 PM
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Finally a driver has the kahunas to take a stand and say something. If you like Tony or not, the fans who are speaking out against him need to look back into NASCAR’s history. This has been going on for quite some time now. Quite frankly I have to side with Tony on this issue. I am not a very big fan of Tony but he is absolutely right. NASCAR in the past has thrown these types of cautions for as long as I can remember. Tony is correct in saying how NASCAR thinks the fans are idiots. Does anyone remember the 1990 Daytona 500 when someone’s bell housing was laying in the middle of turn 3 as big as day and nary a flag was thrown? A few races later a small piece rubber sitting up against the wall caused a four to five lap caution. There are times where NASCAR throws these debris cautions to tighten up a race that has in most cases gotten boring. There are many fans out there stating that Tony is whining or throwing a tantrum. I my opinion those fans won’t be around 5 years from now. They would have gotten bored and moved on to something else. I have followed NASCAR for well over 25 years and seen the sport evolve into what it is today and in all honesty I’m not quite sure I am liking what I am seeing. I am giving Tony a lot of credit for standing up and saying something. There are way too many for lack of a better words, cowards for not doing the same.

Jere
04/26/2007 12:32 PM
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Say what you will,but it’s still turning a lot of fans away. That’s so true statment that can be made. I wonder if the old timers would stand for all the lame cautions. I remember when they had to earn their points and money. Now a days they just need so show up and be a pupet.

EP
04/26/2007 12:32 PM
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I SAY WAY TO GO TONY
Even the TV ratings show that fans are getting sick of NA$CAR’s ways, they practically told us REDNECKS to leave the sport because they didnt need us anymore, and since the CASUAL fan base started falling away they have been using the mystery debris more and more, I know I am about as fed up as I want to be, I hope they do hear Tony, but more than that I hope they hear the collective voice of the FANS they shunned

Dennis
04/26/2007 01:01 PM
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Let me first state that I hate the #20. But unlike others above me I will not disallow his comments because he is not “a thoughtful driver”. When anyone speaks the truth, a lunatic or a wiseman it is still the truth. When the TV heads start saying “they will need a caution or the leaders will run out of gas before the finish” and BAM out comes another hunk of invisible debris you know the game is fixed. The middle of the field saved their fuel and should have been rewarded but god forbid NA$CAR run a race as it unfolds. Why any sponsor or team out side the in crowd bothers to show up I have no idea. I have had it with this crap. NA$CAR is a joke. If you don’t think they are controlling what is going on like the WWE or the voice from the Outer Limits you are as Dumb as NA$CAR hopes you are. Line up Sheeple, it’s time to get shorn again.

Dot Jones
04/26/2007 01:49 PM
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NASCAR = FUBAR
I agree with Tony. Not only is it fake debris, but if any of the golden teams mention they might run out of gas, Voila, a caution. I have really noticed this since King Brian has taken over. What an arrogant ass.

Jason
04/26/2007 02:27 PM
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NASCAR races have become a joke in my house. I’ve been a fan since 1990 and this “debris caution” insanity just started a few years ago. Always the same circumstances….race has been green for 40 or 50 laps, leader is checking out, lots of cars going a lap down…out comes a caution for an apparently invisible piece of debris. I thought NASCAR would have wisened up after Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon complained about it a few weeks ago, but I guess I overestimated their intelligence. The Phoenix race was as bad as it gets. D.W. said “If we can find the debris, we’ll show it.” Well, it shouldn’t be that hard. If there’s really debris on the track there will be a truck driving out onto the track, a person getting out of the truck and picking up the debris and getting back into the truck. How hard is that to find? It got to the point where the MRN announcers just said “The caution is out again”, then they’d go to a commercial. I guess they figured we didn’t need an explanation, and they were correct.

Dell Hill
04/26/2007 03:25 PM
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As a Champion in this division, Smoke could sit down with Jim Hunter and/or anybody else in the NASCAR trailer and let out every single bit of his ire and discontent on this issue. If nothing positive happened, THEN I can see him letting it all hang out in the press. I don’t know that he has or has not done that, but by the reaction from Jim Hunter, I’m guessing he hasn’t. A champion, using his radio program to suggest that NASCAR is fixing races? Probably not the best approach to resolving what some see as a problem. I suspect that NASCAR has already taken steps to address the issue(s) in a far more professional and responsible manner. I hate the fact this all came to the fore in this fashion. Tony will never live this down and he’s one of the all-time greats.

Sonny
04/26/2007 04:37 PM
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I am glad that Tony spoke his mind. He said what alot of NASCAR fans have been saying all along but could NEVER be heard unless it was stated here. I am not a Tony fan but if he continues to speak for the fans, I will cheer for him more. Thank You Tony and Jeff!

paul
04/26/2007 06:00 PM
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I’m not so sure these cautions are being thrown to help any one team….if you can’t prove that,you can’t prove anything.What is the motive for the cautions???? Only thing i can see is that they try to keep everyone on top of each other for all the “wreck” fans….if they REALLY wanted to play god they would have attempted to slow the 31 down somehow at texas because you know these guys don’t want to see the cingular car run well.not sure who the cautions help but one thing is for-sure….it sure as hell ruins the racing…

Calcasieu
04/26/2007 07:12 PM
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NASCAR should just admit they throw the yellow to benefit marquee drivers and bunch the field. I believe there’s already a name for them – “competition cautions”.

Jeff
04/26/2007 11:13 PM
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Debris cautions have been getting on my nerves for the past 2+ years now and I was hoping that 2007 might be different when it came to debris cautions. The Daytona 500 was scored pretty fairly and I, for one, think they were right not to have thrown the caution as Mark and Kevin were coming to the line. Then I was at the Cali race the next week and wanted to puke when the caution came out with 25 to go. I am not a Jimmie fan(he’s the last driver I want to win actually), but Jimmie got hosed by that final caution. Perhaps he didn’t though. There was one final round of green flag pit stops coming and anything can happen during those. Being at a race and seeing green flag pit stops with 25 to go makes racing what it is. I’d rather see drivers having to slice through the traffic of cars trying to hold onto the lead lap than have a debris caution bunch the field back up. I get excited when a driver fights the leader to keep from going a lap down. I am a Tony fan and don’t mind seeing him run rough by a dude trying to fight to stay on the lead lap. I am all for safety and since Dale died; safety has come such a long way, but at a horrible price. The “safety” thing came to a head though I believe at Louden in 2003 when everyone practically crashed into a prone Jarrett while racing back to the yellow. Ever since they instituted no more racing to the yellow for Dover the week later, that’s where the debris caution joke started. DW has said in the past that they practically had to knock the wall down for a caution. I seen Sterling spin at Martinsville a few weeks ago and NASCAR rightly kept the race green. No harm, no foul. Later though; NASCAR threw the yellow when another driver spun. Not sure who, but be consistent damnit. If there’s a 1 car spin or more for that matter and neither hit a wall or throw crap onto the track; keep ‘em racing. Back to green flag pitstops being exciting. Last year I believe Carl Edwards was leading at Pocono and the jack dropped and the pit stop took 90 seconds during green flag pit stops. Woops. Can you say nearly 2 laps down? Now that is what makes racing exciting and unpredictable. Exciting is not re-bunching the cars for a 15 to 25 lap shootout. If I want that every week; I can go to the local short track and get lots of 25 to 50 lap races. Lastly; if we don’t try to invent finishes, then we can usually have some great finishes. Look at what happened at the race I was at in 2003 at Darlington. No mystery debris caution and the race was green for at least the last 60 laps and it came down to .002 seconds between Craven and Busch. Let the chance of those moments happen again NASCAR and if a race becomes a blowout and only 6 guys finish on the lead lap, so be it!!!!!!! Not every race has to be an exciting race, but every race needs to be a race of integrity.

Sean Decker
04/27/2007 12:21 AM
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Glad I stirred up this pot.

I didn’t say Stewart does not have a point, I said I want to hear from someone with a bit more credibility. Like Jeff Burton or Matt Kennseth or hell, Greg Biffle, all of them are willing to speak their minds freely without the baggage of Stewart’s spoiled rotten behavior.

What’s funny here is, as fans go, I’m about as old school as it gets. I’m 43 years old and I remember watching David Pearson drive the 17 car for Holman and Moody. That would have been, what? 1969 or so and I would been all of 5 or 6 years old.

Do I believe NASCAR throws the caution a bit arbitrarily and too often? YES! Do I like it? NO!

But, I am old school and I don’t like whiny cry babies that sulk miserably when things don’t go there way either.

I personally will have a great deal more respect for Tony Stewart if shuts his piehole and learns to behave like a man. To answer a question posted by M. B. Voelker, No, if my kid behaved like Stewart he’d have his mother’s foot stuck in his backside only because she’d have probably gotten to him first.

Tony Stewart IS NOT THE GREAT STATESMAN OF NASCAR.

Dennis
04/27/2007 07:13 AM
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NA$CAR wants to bunch up the field to make it exciting, fine. But the pits should be closed during cautions for debris. Get out, pick up the spilled steam then get back to green. Green flag pit stops make for exciting and ever changing racing. They should also have a sign that displays pit speed as you move down the pit. Pit speed penalties are very suspect.

Disappointed in Dallas
04/27/2007 08:37 AM
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TELL’EM TONY

My parents took my brother and I to Daytona for the Firecracker 400 back in the early seventies and we have been hooked ever since. We hated only being only able to see a handful of races every year back in the early cable years when the old ESPN and TNN covered them. Now, we can watch them every week and we dont because of all the mysterious cautions, horrible TV coverage, and most of all the hours of commercials during our green flag racing. Something has got to give or there wont be any fans left. Thanks Tony for stating the obvious truth. And for all of you calling his character/actions for leaving after the race at P.I.R., didn’t your parents teach you “If you cant say something nice (correctly and respectfully) dont say anything at all”? His parents did.

Mark
04/29/2007 02:28 PM
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Way to go, Tony. Tell em like it is. But, be warned. Curtis Turner spoke out, got a lifetime ban. Richard Petty’s drivers union was busted before it got started good. I’ve said it before, these folks (France and Co) are mean and they are all powerful. You cannot butt heads with them and win. They will punish you. If you want to be stupid, you have to be tough. But, more power to you brother. You said what has been needing to be said for a long time. I just hate you backed down after the meeting, so I think I see that all powerful force coming into play.

 

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Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

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