Eight days after being fined $35,000 by NASCAR, presumably for making critical comments about safety and lug nuts, Tony Stewart said he still has questions about what exactly he said that got him fined.
On April 21, just hours after announcing his return to competition, Stewart was fined $35,000 by NASCAR for violating Section 12.1; 12.8.a; 12.8.1.b of the NASCAR rulebook. Those sections contain language about making disparaging marks about the sport and/or NASCAR’s leadership.
NASCAR did not identify why the penalty was handed out.
Later that night, the nine-member Sprint Cup Drivers Council agreed to pay Stewart’s fine; earlier this week, Stewart decided to pay the fine himself and donate the $35,000 raised to Autism Delaware.
And NASCAR subsequently changed its lug-nut rules, so starting this week, teams are required to install all five lug nuts and get them all tight on every pit stop.
Today at Talladega Superspeedway, Stewart defended his comments.
“You hate to have to pay $35,000 to get someone’s attention, but apparently that’s what it took,” he said.
Stewart then paused briefly and said, “I’ve got questions, too, that I’d like to have answers to. I’m still wondering why I’m paying a $35,000 fine for something that got changed three days later.”
The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion praised the work done by his peers. “I think they made a huge statement about what the Driver Council’s about and the fact of, they didn’t believe what I did deserved the fine,” he said.
Stewart said he wasn’t comfortable taking money, so he and the other drivers decided to donate it to Autism Delaware.
“We did it collectively as a group and that’s something I’m really proud of with this Driver Council, is how the drivers are united about everything we’re doing,” Stewart said.
“This was the first time that something had happened where somebody in the Council got a penalty for speaking an opinion,” Stewart said. “For them to show that kind of support and show we’re all one unit — that’s something you don’t normally see and haven’t seen in this sport.”
Stewart is retiring at the end of the year, but the group will carry on afterward.
“I’m really proud and I feel really strong that there is a lot of good leadership in the council right now and that the foundation that is being laid there will carry on for years to come down the road,” Stewart said.