Friday, April 27, 2007

Stewart Apologizes For Radio Remarks

Tony Stewart’s day began early at Talladega – 6 a.m. to be precise, which is when the two-time NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion was summoned for a high-level confab with NASCAR official over some comments made by Stewart earlier in the week on his SIRIUS radio show. NASCAR refused to let Stewart’s Joe Gibbs Racing team unload his No. 20 off the hauler Friday morning until Stewart met with officials from the sanctioning body.

And Stewart was properly contrite afterwards. “You can’t fix stupid a lot of times,” he said. “I’m getting better about not saying stupid things at the wrong times, but I’m not totally cured yet.”

NASCAR will announce what action it will take with regards to Stewart later Friday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway, said NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Hunter.

Stewart appeared in the Talladega media center Friday morning, when he apologized for comments he made on his radio show. Five hours earlier, at 6 a.m., he met with a group of NASCAR officials who he declined to identify, but Stewart made it clear that the tone of the meeting was intense.

“The meeting this morning was a good meeting,” Stewart said of the NASCAR sit down. “It’s a little tender for me to sit down right now, but I’m semi-confident that by the time practice starts, the medication that I’ve got will numb it up enough that I can go out and do my job.”

Stewart’s radio comments on Tuesday were highly inflammatory, questioning NASCAR’s credibility and suggesting that debris cautions were being thrown not because of debris on track, but to bunch the fields. “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,” Stewart said. “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. You get so frustrated ... But enough of it's gone on 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.’ … 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. I don't know that they've run a fair race all year.”

But after the NASCAR meeting Friday morning, Stewart had a different perspective. “They assured me that the debris cautions are for things that are out there,” he said. “They say that there are things that are out there and to be honest, the group that I spoke with this morning is a group of peers that I trust. If they tell me stuff is out there, I believe them.”

Stewart, who finished second at Phoenix International Raceway Saturday night, also skipped the mandatory post-race press conference, which NASCAR requires of the second- and third-place finishers at each race.

“We tried to learn from our mistakes before, and I’ve went to the media center and been furious before and said things I didn’t want to say,” Stewart said. “Tuesday night I was sick and still ended up saying things I didn’t want to say, or shouldn’t have said, and got in trouble for it. I should have went to them (NASCAR) instead of saying it in public.”

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