Tony Stewart said he expects to meet with fellow driver Ryan Newman and NASCAR officials Friday at Chicagoland Speedway in an attempt to smooth over some hard feelings from last week’s race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
Newman had tough words for Stewart after the two wrecked in a race that Newman needed to perform well in if he was to qualify for the Chase, which begins Sunday at Chicagoland. But Newman’s postseason hopes were dashed when Stewart took out Newman in an apparent retaliatory move on the backstretch with 37 laps remaining.
“He’s got issues, and we all know he’s got issues,” Newman said after the race, in which he finished 28th and out of the postseason. “I don’t think there was any reason other than him just being bipolar and having anger issues.”
For his part, Stewart said he was simply hitting back at Newman, whom, Stewart said, had already made contact with him three times.
The ill will between the two prompted Friday’s scheduled meeting.
“I haven’t heard anything from him,” Stewart said Thursday at Chase media day in the southside of Chicago. “It would be easy to take it personal. That was a deciding factor in his season on whether he would make the Chase or not.”
Stewart said NASCAR hopes to avoid the situation it found itself in during last season’s Chase, when bad blood between Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano resulted in Kenseth wrecking Logano at Martinsville, effectively ending his Chase hopes (Logano and Kenseth, incidentally, were seen joking with each other in Chicago on Thursday).
“A lot of it is making sure they don’t have a scenario like last year with Joey and Matt,” said Stewart, who is in the Chase. “I think it gets blown a little bit out of proportion But they want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
▪ A NASCAR spokesman said that announcements by the NCAA and ACC earlier this week that they were pulling championship events out of North Carolina because of the state’s HB2 law won’t change NASCAR’s stance on the issue.
In April, chairman Brian France said NASCAR opposes the law, which limits legal protections for LGBT individuals.
“We take the position that any discrimination, unintended or not, we do not like that and we are working behind the scenes, and we are not a political institution,” France said in April. “We don’t set agendas or write laws but we express our values to policy makers. We will and we do. We are real clear about that.”
France told ESPN.com on Thursday that he has spoken with N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory about his concerns.
▪ Both Chip Ganassi Racing teams made the Chase. And Jamie McMurray said it won’t be easy racing Kyle Larson.
“It might even be harder, the fact you have a teammate in it,” said McMurray, who was the sole Ganassi driver in the 2014 Chase. “Last year there were times, that on some of the restarts he might let you in line knowing what you’re racing for, versus the one spot he’s giving up, where maybe that wouldn’t have happened. Especially if you’re both trying to advance to the next round.”
▪ Drivers seem to generally favor the rules changes announced earlier this week that will go into effect for the Chase, which included modifying lug-nut installation and stiffer penalties for teams who fail post-race laser inspection.
One, however, wasn’t paying much attention.
“I hit ‘delete,’” said Kevin Harvick of the email he received outlining the new rules. Harvick said he doesn’t pay attention to issues that don’t directly involve driving the car.