Tony Stewart: Disrespectful NASCAR Drivers Need To Be Taught A Lesson

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 29: Greg Biffle (L), driver of the #16 3M Filtrete Ford, argues with Kevin Harvick (R), driver of the #29 Budweiser Chevrolet, in the garage area after an incident in practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 29, 2011 in Martinsville, Virginia. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Since NASCAR implemented the 'Have at it, boys' philosophy, drivers seem to be giving less respect to one another on the race track. Tony Stewart says that needs to change and it is NASCAR's job to set clearer guidelines.

After winning a race filled with wrecked cars, short tempers and frustrated drivers, Tony Stewart sat in the Martinsville Speedway media center and sent a message to NASCAR and his fellow competitors.

"NASCAR is going to have to at some point make these drivers be responsible for their actions amongst each other and not babysit and not protect these guys," he said. "Let them get their butts kicked. That's what used to happen in the old days. You didn't have guys dumping each other and taking cheap shots."

Wait a minute? Isn't this the 'Have At It, Boys' Era of NASCAR? Isn't NASCAR already taking a hands-off approach to the action on the track, allowing drivers to settle things for themselves?

It certainly seemed that way Sunday in Martinsville. Just look at Brian Vickers' incidents with Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth.

But for Stewart, NASCAR's policy has never been fully understood in the garage and has led to disrespect at every corner.

"I'm still trying to figure out what 'Have at it' meant," Stewart said. "I don't know that any of us really knows what's different now than before they said that."

When Stewart first joined NASCAR in 1999, he entered a sport dominated by Dale Earnhardt, Rusty Wallace and Dale Jarrett. Those veterans did not take kindly to being disrespected, and they weren't shy about letting a young driver know about it.

"You just didn't do that, because that guy would come grab you, pull you out of the car at the end of the practice session, rip your head off talking to you about it, intimidate you into understanding why you didn't do that (in the future)," Stewart said.

But nothing of that nature is taking place in today's NASCAR, Stewart said.

Want an example? Just look at the tiff between Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle during Saturday's practice session. 

After the two made contact on the track, they continued their disagreement in the garage and confronted each other as crew members and media swarmed around the heated discussion. Television coverage of the event called it a "fight" despite no pushing, no shoving and no punches being thrown. 

"What did they accomplish?" Stewart asked. "Did it make anybody understand what the other guy was thinking or saying? They yelled at each other, walked away and nothing was different than before it happened. There's nothing different to make these guys do anything than what's in their head."

Typically, when drivers have feuds or on-track incidents, they get the attention, walk away and are done with it. The crew members at the track and back at the shop have to deal with the circumstances and difficulty of repairing the wrecked race cars, however. 

Stewart said perhaps it is time team members need to get upset when their drivers when they "do something stupid" and make them fix their own mistakes back at the shop (of course, they might lose their jobs if they actually did).

Crediting his views to sit-downs with former team owner Joe Gibbs, Stewart believes drivers need to start taking responsibility for their actions and settle their differences off the race track and in the garage.

"I think they ought to get a portable boxing ring," he said. "As soon as they get done with the victory celebration, set the boxing ring on the frontstretch and give the fans a real show they paid for."

Vickers, who was involved in five cautions on Sunday, seemed to back Stewart's assertion in comments to SB Nation on Monday afternoon.

"The best option is probably dealing with it out of the race car," Vickers said in a phone interview. "The problem is if you deal with it out of the race car, you can get in trouble for that kind of thing. If I had dealt with what happened (Sunday) outside the car, I would have received a big fine, I would have been in a lot more trouble.

"We've had drivers this year fined for dealing with those situations, even behind closed doors, not even in front of the cameras. Imagine what the fine would be if I did it in front of the camera. So, that only leaves me with one option, and the only option is to deal with it on the race track."

Vickers said on-track retaliation "wouldn't be my first choice," but said drivers wreck one another because that's the message NASCAR has sent.

"Because if you deal with it off the race track, you're in really big trouble," he said. "That only leaves you one option."

Of course, this begs the question: Was Sunday's race really any different than any other Martinsville race?

"I think it's a combination of (being) late in the year and Martinsville, and sometimes just the way the race goes," Jeff Gordon said. "If you get early cautions here at Martinsville, that usually contributes itself to more cautions. Those are more guys, somebody's upset, tempers are flaring, incidents happen. It escalates from there."

Vickers said it was important for everyone not to overreact to conflicts in NASCAR. He asked hypothetically what would happen if the famous fight at the end of the 1979 Daytona 500 between Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison were to occur today.

"Would there be an overreaction and would people say, 'Oh, we don't want this,' 'We can't have this,' 'We need to put an end to this,'" he asked. "That's what made our sport exciting and famous. If we do that, we're going to get in trouble. If I confront someone outside of the race car and potentially get in a fight, I'm looking at a serious fine, penalty or suspension."

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