DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Tony Stewart vowed Friday to wreck any driver who blocks him on the track, even if that policing costs him a spot in NASCAR’s championship race.
Stewart intentionally spun Brian Vickers last week at Sonoma because he felt Vickers was blocking him during the race. Vickers retaliated later by wrecking Stewart, who had a car capable of contending for the win but wound up 39th.
It dropped him to 12th in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship standings.
“I am drawing a line in the sand and the next guy that blocks me, he is going to also suffer the same fate,” Stewart said at Daytona International Speedway.
He also upped the ante, stating in a calm manner that he’d wreck the next driver enough to ensure he won’t be able to come back and retaliate against Stewart.
“It doesn’t matter who it is,” he said. “I’ll make sure that when I do it the next time that the guy doesn’t have the opportunity to come back and wreck me.”
His stance seems to be excessive, especially since Stewart is on the bubble of making the Chase with only 10 races left to qualify for the 12-driver field. Under new qualifying rules, only the top 10 drivers are guaranteed a Chase berth.
The other two spots will go to drivers ranked between 11th and 20th who have the most wins. Stewart is winless this season.
But racing smart to guarantee a Chase berth isn’t on his agenda.
“I’m going to stay the course on it,” Stewart said. “I’m just to the point where I’m fed up with some of the way some of these guys are racing each other. If we miss the Chase because of it, so be it. That’s not what the team is going to want to hear. That’s not what our sponsors are going to want to hear, but so be it.
“It is what it is. There’s 42 guys out there, and they know how I race, they know what I expect. And I don’t race them that way, I don’t block guys and I’m not going to block guys. But if they block me, they will suffer the consequences.”
Stewart is often vocal about on-track etiquette and an unspoken code of conduct, which he said he learned early in his NASCAR career from veterans who made it clear how things worked in this series.
But the new “Boys, have at it,” policy, and a hunger for drama and rivalries has made it impossible to teach young drivers the same lessons.
“When I came in here, I thought I was going to change how things worked, too, and Dale (Earnhardt) Sr. taught me how to do it, Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, my teammate Bobby Labonte taught me, had to grab me and shake me beside a trailer one day and say, ‘Listen, you’ve got to understand,”’ Stewart said.
“Nothing like that happens in this day and age. It’s so glamorized when two people do something on the race track, it’s made to be such a soap opera, the whole point why it happened in the first place isn’t getting resolved.”
Stewart and Vickers have talked since Sunday, and disagree on the root of the issue. Vickers denies he was blocking, but Stewart insists he was. They are in agreement that Vickers had every right to retaliate.
“I told him, of all people, I didn’t want it to be you,” Stewart said. “But I told him I had drawn a line in the sand with the guys that were doing it.”