Thursday, March 16, 2006

What Made Stewart Angry

I keep reading opinions from fans and even "professional" sports writers that Stewart was angry at Kyle Busch for not letting him pass. He was upset that he was being blocked at every turn with 80 laps to go, but he had a point: that was way too early in the race to be doing the kind of aggressive blocking Busch was doing. In an article, speaking to Mike Mulhern of the Winston-Salem Journal, he had this to say:

This weekend may also be a telling one for young Kyle Busch, whose exuberance has drawn the wrath of many veterans, including Tony Stewart twice already this year.

"I think it goes back to the Busch series," Stewart said, referring to Busch and a number of the new young drivers coming up.

"The worst thing that happened to that series was guys like Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton and some of the other veteran drivers that have been around a long time aren't running the series anymore, or not as much as they used to.

"So what's happened is that younger drivers who have come up through Busch haven't learned the respect of give and take.

"These Cup races are 400 and 500 mile races, and drivers have to work with each other. You're racing the whole race, but you have to race the race. You don't race each other until the end.

Stewart said that he learned from the examples set by drivers such as Martin.

"When I was in Busch, and even my first year in Cup, I watched Mark and paid attention to what he was doing," Stewart said.

"When he would let me go, I would sit there and think, 'Why is he letting me go?' Then you realize, after he drives back by you, that he was letting his car come to him while you were wearing your car out.

"Blocking and holding guys up when they're obviously faster and they've caught you, that's something you can't do. That's not give and take. And you end up making people mad."

Stewart has done his share of angering rivals this season, particularly Matt Kenseth, who comes here second in the standings after a first and second in his past two starts, and Stewart is 19th, 236 points down to tour leader Jimmie Johnson.

Stewart, the series' defending champion, said he's not down.

"We just have a better balance than what we had a year ago, and we're far ahead of where we were at this time last year," Stewart said, pleased by his runs the past two times out if not the finishes. "It's nice to come out of California and Las Vegas with the runs that we had, even if the results weren't what we would've liked."

Stewart won here in 2002, and he's generally had a top-five car at this lightning-fast track.

"Atlanta has more bumps (than California and Vegas), and it's one of those tracks that gives up a lot more grip, so the groove moves around quite a bit," he said. "The surface is more worn out than at California or Las Vegas.

"But Atlanta is just one of those fun tracks, because it's challenging, especially from the driver's standpoint, because you have to get a balance that's going to be good for the whole day, not just for a couple of laps. You have to constantly adjust your car."

• Mike Mulhern can be reached at

This entire article may be read at The Journal On-Line

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