JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Team owner Ray Evernham called on NASCAR to suspend Tony Stewart after the driver tapped the back of Kasey Kahne’s car, sending the rookie spinning into a wall and touching off a fight in the pits between the teams’ crews.
Stewart went on to get his first victory of the season in the Tropicana 400.
“He definitely needs to get suspended, and he should have his (backside) beat,” said Evernham, owner of Kahne’s team, Evernham Motorsports. “That’s the problem with him. Nobody has ever really grabbed him and given him a good beating.
“If he doesn’t get suspended, maybe I’ll do that.”
Stewart is already on probation until Aug. 18 for an altercation with Brian Vickers after the June 27 race at Sonoma.
“I asked (NASCAR) if they’re going to do anything about it over and over again,” said Evernham, clearly livid after meeting with NASCAR officials. “Does something have to get hurt? Is that what it’s going to take?”
Stewart said he wasn’t sure what happened.
“I wish I knew,” he said. “I was catching him. He checked up.”
Kahne was leading Sunday’s race under a caution, with Sterling Marlin second and Stewart third. After the restart on lap 127 of the 267-lap race, Stewart passed Marlin on the outside, but his Chevrolet got too close to Kahne’s Dodge and tapped the back end.
Kahne started spinning, sliding headfirst into the wall while Stewart darted out of harm’s way and into the lead.
“Obviously the 20 (car) was in the back of me and put us up in the wall,” Kahne said. “I don’t know why he would do that. He had the car to beat all day. All he had to do was go through a couple more turns and he probably would have passed us.”
A few seconds after the wreck, Kahne’s crew chief Tommy Baldwin charged into Stewart’s pit. Baldwin and Greg Zipadelli, Stewart’s crew chief, shouted at each other, and then members of the crews began fighting.
“I was just talking to Zippy and telling him his driver is a moron,” Baldwin said. “They started pushing me and then the official grabbed me. I don’t know what happened after that.”
The pit crews mixed it up for a few minutes before order was restored. The shirt of one crew member was ripped open. Kahne’s crew went back to their garage to try to repair the car, which was severely damaged in the front. After a few minutes, Baldwin walked to NASCAR’s trailer and spent several minutes inside talking with officials.
“(Stewart) was doing what he’s been doing all year — driving like a moron,” Baldwin said. “There’s no reason to do that stuff, and he gets away with it all he wants and all NASCAR does is fine him.
“He’s got plenty of money, the guy needs to sit out a race. That’s it.”
Six other cars — including those of Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. — were caught up in the wreck. No one was hurt. Kahne got back into the race on lap 214, but was 87 laps off the lead.
This isn’t the first problem involving Kahne and Stewart. At Darlington in March, Stewart bumped Kahne from behind and sent him sliding through turns three and four. Both were able to continue racing, with Kahne finishing 13th and Stewart 17th.
NASCAR put Stewart on probation for his run-in with Vickers, and also fined him $50,000 and docked him 25 championship points.
Stewart also has a laundry list of other offenses in his first five seasons in NASCAR’s top series. From throwing his heat shields at Kenny Irwin on the track his rookie year to punching a photographer in 2002, he’s racked up more than $100,000 in fines. He’s been on probation four times.