I’ve been talking a lot about the young guys in NASCAR over the last few weeks. But this week is about the old guys.
Or maybe just one old guy: Tony Stewart.
After 84 races, two major injuries and a sprint car fatality, Stewart found himself back in victory lane last weekend at Sonoma. It was his first win since June 2, 2013, and makes 49 wins for his career.
Perhaps more importantly, the win puts Stewart in position to get into the Chase with a chance to win championship No. 4 in his last season before riding off into the sunset to do some racing that he says he will enjoy better than what he is doing now. Currently, Stewart sits nine points behind the magical 30th-place position in the Sprint Cup standings. If he is there after Richmond in September, he’s in.
Not quite a remarkable as what Kyle Busch did last year, but not bad. Busch missed 11 races, made the Chase and won a championship. Stewart only missed eight after suffering multiple fractures to his back in a dune buggy accident right before the Daytona 500.
I’m not going to lie, I would have guessed that Stewart was riding out the string, enjoying his victory lap and waiting for the NASCAR Hall of Fame to call in a few years. But I should have known that’s not quite Tony’s style.
And so was the way Stewart won, hawking down Denny Hamlin over the race’s last few corners while putting a fender to him to move him out of the way in turn 11 and charging to the checkered flag.
“You can’t crack the door open with me on the last corner of the last lap and expect me to not take it,” Stewart said in his post-race interview. “I’ll kick the door in or drive a bulldozer through it to keep it open.
“When you’re in a scenario like that, I don’t know if I’m going to get another scenario or opportunity to win another race the rest of the year. We’re going to try, but knowing that that could be the difference between making the Chase or not making the Chase, I wasn’t going to be cordial in the exit of the corner and I roughed him up pretty good. If it has been a street fight, he’d (Hamlin) have had two black eyes after that.”
… and speaking of black eyes that didn’t happen, what did y’all think of that fight between chicken man, er, John Wes Townley and Spence Gallagher?
Y’all know I am big fan of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. I work in it. I think it is some of the best racing around. But that “fight” between those two knuckleheads set the series back a decade.
In case you missed it, and I’m not sure you could have if you have the internet or TV, Gallagher wrecked JWT (which is a great hashtag to look up on twitter during truck races. The man is bound to wreck at least half the time), then Townley came back out and wrecked Gallagher. As the two trucks sat on the track, chicken man climbed out and approached Gallagher and proceeded to engage in something that resembled very, very bad professional wrestling from the 1980s. For his part, Gallagher didn’t want to engage in such shenanigans and, after Townley managed to DDT himself into the asphalt, let Townley punch him in the face a few times before they both got tired, disengaged from their “bro love” bear hug and stumble to their respective ambulances.
At one point shortly after the fight, I received a text from a friend saying the Townley fights like he drives, kind of all over the place. I guess he’s nothing if not consistent.
Now I’m not one to condone fighting – who am I kidding, yes I am – but if you are going to fight, at least make a decent showing of it. I saw a better display of the martial arts when I picked up my 2-year old from day care and a little girl karate chopped another kid in the neck.
It made SportsCenter’s Not Top 10 and the anchor kept calling Townley chicken man. As a supporter of the series, I’m embarrassed. Get it together guys, or we are going to send Tony Stewart to show y’all how it’s done.
Andy Cagle writes a weekly column during the NASCAR season. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.