It might be Valentine’s Day, but Tony Stewart wasn’t in a loving mood Saturday morning.
In the final Sprint Cup test for Sunday’s Daytona 500, he was following teammate Ryan Newman when the right-rear tire on Newman’s car blew. Newman began to spin and Stewart ran into him.
Both drivers are forced to go to back-up cars. Stewart had qualified fifth and Newman 36th in the 500, but by going to back-up cars they will drop to the back of the pack
"We blew a right rear tire. Obviously it is unfortunate,” Newman said. “It gave me about 100 yards (warning) that it might do something. I was just getting ready to pull off in Turn 2 and come in. It is ridiculous the situation we are in with these tires.”
Tire blistering was a problem at Daytona last year. In Thursday’s qualifying races, Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin had tire issues. Goodyear recognized that portions of those tires were all manufactured on the same day, so it recalled at least eight tires for precautionary measures.
Stu Grant, general manager of worldwide racing for Goodyear, said Newman’s latest tire problem was caused by track debris.
But Stewart wasn’t buying it.
Stewart has been outspoken in the past about Goodyear’s tires and its status as exclusive tire supplier for the three NASCAR national touring series.
As a new team owner this year he isn’t letting up.
“Ah, it’s just a Goodyear right rear tire. So, same thing everybody has been talking about all week. Same stuff that we always talk about every year is the failures that Goodyear has,” he said.
“I think that’s part of their marketing campaign. The more we talk about it, the more press they get. I think they forget that it’s supposed to be in a good way, not a bad way.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. I’m ticked right now. I’m not happy, I’m not cordial, I’m not nice, I’m not anything right now, and I shouldn’t be. If it was because two guys wrecked and it was a driver’s mistake, that’s one thing. But a manufacturer that has the sole deal here, they don’t have any competition and they can’t give us something to keep us from having problems like this. So, I don’t know. I’m just amazed at how much everybody kisses their butts right now.”
Stewart regained his focus and went on to win the Nationwide Series race Saturday in a Chevrolet owned by Hendrick Motorsports.
JUNIOR TOO SICK TO TALK?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. declined to be interviewed live on ESPN on pit road a few minutes before Saturday’s Nationwide Series race. The reporter said he wasn’t feeling well.
He wasn’t feeling too bad to talk to some folks hanging out next to his race car.
This is the same Junior who said recently that drivers are doing all they can to help promote races and laid the burden on track owners to do more.
Here’s a thought, Junior: Do the interview and say, “I can’t talk too long ’cause I ain’t feelin’ all that good. Just wanna thank the fans for comin’ out today or for those of ya’ watchin’ on TV. Thanks, y’all.”
And you’d sell even more souvenirs.
GAUGHAN OFF TO GOOD START
Brendan Gaughan started his Nationwide Series career solidly by finishing 13th Saturday for Rusty Wallace Racing.
NOT A PETTY BEEF, JUST A FACT
Kyle Petty says he won’t be watching the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Who can blame him?
For the first time in 40 years, a Petty will not be in the race.
"I won’t even watch it on TV, that’s what it’s like," said Petty, who has run the 500 more than 25 times. "It’s crap is what it’s like."
Petty found himself out of a job when Petty Enterprises merged with Gillett Evernham Motorsports and was rebranded Richard Petty Motorsports. The move kept the Petty name in the business, but Kyle Petty told The Associated Press he feels no loyalty to the new team.
When asked about Reed Sorenson posting the fastest time during Saturday’s practice while driving the iconic No. 43 Dodge that Richard Petty drove to seven championships, Kyle Petty grimaced.
"It means nothing to me," he said. "Let’s be real honest. There’s Richard Petty Motorsports or whatever you want to call it. But there is no Petty Enterprises."
AJ Allmendinger made sure Petty’s old ride — the No. 44 — got into the 500 thanks to a strong finish in a 150-mile qualifier Thursday.
The white-and-light blue Dodge with Valvoline splashed across the front looked nothing like Petty’s days in the car, which featured the deep shade of blue considered the family’s signature color.
"I was not mad about that at all; I was crushed. I was hurt and I’m not going to get over it for a while," he said. "That’s me. That’s a personal thing. That’s not got anything to do with anything else. That was my paint job and my car and my number and my stuff, from my first win. Not for Petty Enterprises or GEM or whoever that is."