Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tony Seems Testy


Tony Stewart getting pissy with the press? Imagine that. He's obviously feeling the pressure of making "The Chase" in NASCAR. He's in tenth place at the moment with no wins. If Brad Kesolowski should happen to score some big points and Tony gets knocked out early in tonight's race at Richmond, since he has no wins, he can be knocked clear out of the contenders list for the Chase.

He's certainly had his moments in the past.
The 2001 season was not without controversy, however. Jeff Gordon pulled a "bump and run" on Stewart to gain a better finishing position in a race in Bristol, and it resulted in Stewart retaliating in a post-race incident by spinning Gordon out on pit road. Stewart was fined and placed on probation by NASCAR. He got into further trouble at Daytona, when he confronted a Winston Cup official after ignoring a black flag. At the same race, he also got into an incident with a reporter, kicking away a tape recorder. He confronted the same NASCAR official at the race in Talladega after refusing to wear a mandated head-and-neck restraint. Stewart was not allowed to practice until wearing one and only managed to practice after his crew chief, Greg Zipadelli intervened. His fines and probation periods resulting from these incidents have earned Stewart a reputation of having a hot-temper, and he became NASCAR's "bad boy".

Then there was 2002:
The second half of his season was plagued by an altercation with a photographer after the Brickyard 400. NASCAR put Stewart on probation for the rest of the season.

Then things were pretty quiet for Smoke, unless you count his on track encounters with Brian Vickers, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Elliot Sadler, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon. He was fined after his use of obscene language in the winner's circle at the Brickyard 400 in 2007. It was also roughly in this period where he had nothing good to say about the series tire provider Goodyear, and claiming NASCAR and the new car might as well be all star wrestling with predetermined finishes. All of these incidents got him into some trouble with NASCAR - with fines and probations.

Then last winter at a race in Australia when in a disagreement with a track owner, Tony allegedly smacked him in the head with his helmet.

So Tony has a history of losing his cool. This whole incident tickled me because of the furor on Twitter and even a little bit of it was covered on ESPN. Smoke started to go off on a reporter we couldn't see off to the right - that was Mike Massaro of ESPN. Jenna Fryer, the blonde woman wearing sunglasses (and towering over Tony) to the left stated that she was just trying to take the heat off Mike and give Tony an out so he wouldn't go off on a rant, but Tony wasn't having any part of it and chewed at Jenna. He'd sunk down into his anger zone and wasn't going to set it aside. Jenna wasn't upset over the incident - she wasn't trying to ask "dumb questions" - she was trying to get Tony to say what was acceptable, which Tony took exception to and he jumped her about "doing her job."  I happen to think Jenna is a fine reporter who shows no bias, and she has a rep for digging for stories that want to remain hidden. She is one of NASCAR's best investigative reporters. And of course, the NASCAR trolls on Twitter were in force - some assuming she'd tried to bang Tony and he wouldn't have her, or the size of her ass, or other pertinent debating points.

But I happen to like Tony, and one of the reasons is that he does let it all hang out. This is what comes with wanting your stars to be more colorful. They act in a colorful manner, which generally means not politically correct. It's not fair to Tony to muzzle him and then complain about how generic and predictable the drivers are. Tony is a lot like his hero Super Tex - aka A.J. Foyt, who was never afraid to mix it up with other drivers, track officials, or whomever pissed in his Post Toasties. Just ask Arie Luyendyk about a hot night at Texas Motor Speedway. Tony is like A.J. in his ability to drive about any kind of car competitively as well.  So, Tony is a kind of throwback to an era past. And, it's fun to watch and see what happens next with him, because you never know what will set him off. I imagine he'd find this "Threat Level" funny, but only up to a point!

1 comment:

Dad Bones said...

Very insightful, Jeffro, as always. Even though he was popping off there was nothing outlandishly rude or vulgar about it. You'd have to be wound pretty tight to be a NASCAR driver. I'm surprised they can keep a lid on it as well as they do.