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Tony Stewart and NASCAR: An Uneasy Relationship

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Joshua Lipowski

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In recent years, Tony Stewart and NASCAR have had some run-ins over multiple different things. It has caused many to question whether or not Tony Stewart still has his heart in NASCAR and his race team. While that question is impossible to answer, we can break down every incident Tony Stewart and NASCAR have had with each other over the years.

2020-2021: Losing a Championship, a Potential Race Date, and a Driver

Stewart-Haas Racing and Kevin Harvick had a disappointing finish to the 2020 season. Harvick was clearly the best driver all year long, but he was messed up in the Round of 8. First, he hit the wall early at Texas despite himself and other drivers complaining about a damp race track. He was then eliminated after a tough race at Martinsville one week later, and Tony Stewart’s car lost a Championship.

The following year, SHR and Kevin Harvick declined as Aric Almirola won the only race for the organization. Harvick went winless for the first time since joining RCR. Some place part of the blame on changes made to the 2021 inspection process, which, may have some factor in it.

On top of that, the 2020 offseason saw NASCAR and Tony Stewart at odds again. In 2021, NASCAR decided to run a dirt race for the first time at Bristol Motor Speedway, not Tony Stewart’s track in Eldora which had hosted the Truck Series from 2013 until 2019. According to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press, Tony Stewart pulled Eldora from the Truck Series schedule as a result of this decision.

He also told the AP that he desired to run the 2021 Busch Clash at Daytona, but NASCAR left him out to dry. That same offseason, Stewart revealed that he wanted to sign Kyle Larson to join his team for 2021, but Ford told him no. Yeah, it was a rough few months for Stewart and NASCAR.

Forming the SRX Series may not have helped matters either considering how NASCAR will fiercely defend against competition whether or not the SRX is true competition or not. However, the impact of that is a bit harder to pinpoint. Regardless, Stewart and NASCAR were at odds.

2022: The Next-Gen Car and Penalties Abound

In 2022, the Next-Gen car was introduced. Since it was introduced, SHR has been penalized with as heavy a hand as any because of Next-Gen parts. Kevin Harvick was penalized two years in a row at Talladega, and this was his tweet following the 2022 penalty.

Harvick was also vocal throughout 2022 for the parts failures of the Next-Gen car. He coined the term “Crappy Ass Parts”. The other major SHR penalty came in 2023 at Charlotte when Chase Briscoe was penalized for counterfeiting the NACA ducts. The penalty was 120 driver and owner points, a $250,000 fine with a six-race suspension for crew chief Johnny Klausmeier, and the loss of 25 Playoff points.

The hammer was dropped then. On top of that, at the Charlotte Roval in 2022, Cole Custer was penalized for allegedly manipulating the race outcome. He was docked 50 driver and owner points and his crew chief was suspended indefinitely while being fined $100,000. Stewart later said this to the Associated Press.

“I’m so mad at NASCAR right now, I’m not talking about it… If it weren’t for the fact that I’ve got a couple of appearances that I have to make, I wouldn’t be in another NASCAR race the rest of the year. Wouldn’t waste my time.”

Tony Stewart

He soon backed out of an appearance to be the grand marshall at Homestead-Miami a while later. Stewart and NASCAR were at odds once again.

2023: Drag Racing, Marriage, and Losing Drivers

2023 was a terrible year for SHR. They failed to win a race for the first time since Tony Stewart joined the ownership group in 2009, and Kevin Harvick was the lone Playoff driver. He was eliminated in the Round of 16. On top of that, Stewart lost 2 drivers to retirement in Harvick and Aric Almirola.

During this time while Stewart and NASCAR were having their issues, Stewart got married to NHRA driver Leah Pruett and started a drag racing team. He even started racing some himself. Stewart said this to Susan Wade of Autoweek following his start in drag racing.

I’m definitely having more fun than I’ve had in a long time, definitely not anywhere that has fenders on it.

Tony Stewart

Stewart did so well driving, that he took the points lead in the Top Alcohol category. He also won his first championship as a car owner in the series with Matt Hagan in Funny Car. Stewart loves drag racing, and it’s certainly possible that spending so much time there could be hurting his efforts as a Cup Series team owner. It is tough to pinpoint for sure whether it is or is not.

Tony Stewart and NASCAR have been at odds many times over the last few years. Only time will tell how everything works out. Will it get better, or will it get worse?

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