If there is one thing veteran drivers know all too well, it's to not block Tony Stewart, because if you do there are often serious ramifications. It's a lesson many a driver has learned over the years after suffering Stewart's wrath.
One driver who has yet to fully grasp Stewart's disdain for blocking is Kyle Larson, the leading rookie in the Sprint Cup Series.
Larson blocked Stewart on a restart during Sunday's race at Michigan International Speedway with the two making contact. This prompted Stewart to demonstrate his displeasure by waving his middle finger at Larson during a subsequent caution, an act which was caught on camera.
Stewart hadn't forgotten what transpired when asked Friday at Sonoma Raceway, the site of the first road course race of the season. And in case Larson needed a reminder about Stewart's displeasure with blocking, the three-time Cup champion made his feelings clear.
"He'll learn it's not a good idea," Stewart said. "If he didn't learn it last week, he'll learn it in the next couple of weeks."
In his estimation, Stewart had a car capable of finishing in the top-five before the contact. But when Larson moved up the track, Stewart hit the rookie, putting a hole in the front of Stewart's Chevrolet. Forced to make an unscheduled pit stop, Stewart lost valuable track position and finished 11th.
"We had a really good car," Stewart said. "And then on a restart, he swerves over to block us and puts a big hole in the nose that we've got to come in and fix. By the time we get it fixed we're buried so far back at the end of a race like that, we couldn't do anything."
Larson finished eighth at Michigan and downplayed the incident post-race saying, "That's Tony being Tony."
Both Stewart and Larson share similar backgrounds, having raced sprint cars and climbed through the USAC ranks. One of Larson's early breakthrough victories was winning an event at Eldora Speedway, the Ohio dirt track Stewart owns.
Stewart has long been a proponent of Larson, but his admiration for the rookie's talent goes only so far. And if the 21-year-old continues to draw Stewart's ire by blocking him, then there will be consequences.
"I think he'll learn, just like we all learned when we were rookies -- one way or the other," Stewart said. "He'll either slow down enough and think about what he's doing or he'll be forced in a situation where he'll have time to think about it and they'll still be cars on the race track."