Three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart will not be penalized for instigating a post-race fight on pit road or his profanity-laced comments about Joey Logano on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.
NASCAR also will not penalize six drivers called to the hauler after the California race for entering pit road following the checkered flag when pit road was closed. Neither Stewart nor Logano was called to the hauler.
“A few years ago, we backed away from micromanaging a driver’s emotions,” Sprint Cup Series director John Darby said on Tuesday. “You would hope in today’s world that if somebody didn’t win a race they would be upset about it for whatever reason.
“That’s what our drivers do, they try to win races.”
Darby said there’s a limit to what NASCAR will allow, noting “if guys get in a helluva fight, yeah, we’re going to have to react.”
But Darby said what happened with Stewart and Logano did not put anybody in danger, as was the case in 2011 when Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick were docked $25,000 each for a pit road incident at Darlington.
In that incident, Harvick took a swing at Busch, who remained in his car. Busch then tried to pull away, pushing Harvick’s car into the inside retaining walls with safety workers and crew members in the area.
Darby said there was nothing in the Stewart-Logano incident that came close to that.
Stewart was upset that Logano blocked him on the final restart and that Denny Hamlin was injured in an ensuing wreck that occurred racing Logano for the lead.
After the race, Stewart cut off Logano’s car on pit road with his, approached the Penske Racing driver and then shoved him in the chest. A scuffle erupted between the drivers and team members. Stewart followed that with a verbal assault.
“Dumb little son-of-a-b—- runs us clear down to the infield,” Stewart said in a taped interview shown on Fox’s live broadcast after the race with the profanities bleeped out. “He wants to b—- about everybody else and he’s the one who drives like a little b—-. I’m going to bust his ass.”
Because the words were bleeped out, there was no violation. Darby said there was no foul in the entire incident.
“A couple of drivers at the end of the race arguing a little bit doesn’t create a foul in our world today,” he said. “The crews did a great job of managing their drivers to make sure it didn’t cross the line to where there was physical violence or anything like that. That’s what you’d hope for.
“That’s another example of the state of competition in NASCAR racing, the disappointment that comes sometimes when you don’t win a race. I don’t see any foul there at all.”
As for Hamlin, who suffered a compression fracture in the L1 vertebra of his lower back, it was determined late Tuesday that he won’t need surgery but will be sidelined at least six weeks.
Joe Gibbs Racing said in a statement that Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery and Spine Associates will determine “when Hamlin will be able to return to racing this season.”
If he heals according to Petty’s estimated timeline, he’d only miss five races because NASCAR is off this weekend.
Darby said Hamlin’s car that ran into a concrete inside retaining wall will be studied by NASCAR. He said NASCAR and experts also will review where Hamlin’s car hit to determine if recommendations will be made for the track to install SAFER barriers there.