LONG POND — No bad scratches. No lasting bruises. No, Tony Stewart was just fine upon arriving at Pocono Raceway this weekend, despite what people might have seen on the internet.
Well known for his love of dirt tracks, Stewart raised some eyebrows this week when a video of him crashing in seemingly dramatic fashion in a sprint car race on Monday began making the rounds online.
No harm done. The wreck certainly didn’t dull his always sharp tongue.
“Oh my God. You mortals… you’ve got to learn,” Stewart deadpanned to a crowd outside of his trailer before Friday’s qualifying run. “You guys need to watch more sprint car videos. It was not a big deal. It’s starting to get annoying this week about that. That was just an average sprint car wreck. When they wreck, they get upside down.”
What drew attention to this particular crash, however, was that Stewart “got upside down” several times during the crash at Ohsweken Speedway in Ontario.
The Sprint Cup champion lost the grip on a turn and slid up the embankment on the dirt track as the diminutive car toppled over onto its right side. His momentum then tossed him once, twice … six times, seven times end-over-end before finally coming to a rest against the fence.
Naturally, it was the first topic that came up for Stewart on Friday. But he’s already had to hear about it all week.
“I appreciate (the concern), but when there’s something to report, I’ll let you know,” Stewart said. “I guarantee you there were 20 guys across the country who flipped just like that this week, and they’re fine.”
To prove his point, Stewart got right back in a sprint car the next day and ran fifth in a World of Outlaws race.
Back in a stock car on Friday, Stewart qualified 20th for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400. He started 19th in the June race at Pocono, running very well on Sunday to finish fourth.
Stewart’s dirt-track escapades have never seemed to hurt his performance on NASCAR’s top circuit, and that looks to be the case again this season. He enters this weekend in 11th place in the standings, just a single point behind Jeff Gordon for the 10th and final automatic berth in the Chase.
While Stewart brushes off incidents like this, they don’t go unnoticed by his peers.
“Yeah, I did see that footage” of the crash, said Danica Patrick, who drives for Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing.
“I think he must really love his sprint car racing.”
Patrick said she understood the allure, though, because boyfriend and fellow Sprint Cup rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is also a fan of it.
“With how much Ricky loves sprint car racing and racing on dirt, (you understand) that flipping and crashing is very much a part of that sport,” Patrick said. “And if you catch the berm or you clip tires … there’s a lot of chances for accidents.”
“It’s not for me. But those who love it, very much love it.”
The consensus around the garage is generally that Stewart, a respected veteran and champion, can do whatever makes him happy. Especially because he also happens to own his own team.
Some acknowledge, however, that the risks can outweigh the rewards.
“If it were a young driver coming to work for Hendrick Motorsports, I would try to discourage them (from sprint car racing),” Gordon said. “Because you’re an investment to us and our team. … Some younger guys don’t appreciate that, but someone like Tony does, and he handles himself well with it.
“I look up to him in that way. I’ve raced in sprint cars and know how different it is, especially not doing it all the time.”
For Stewart, there was only one thing that was actually painful about the situation — he’ll have to take a weekend off from the sprint cars now.
“The worst part of the week,” Stewart said, “was when I was told that I wasn’t going to be allowed to race this weekend because we only had one new car left.”