Today started as a day of triumph for Tony Stewart with him announcing his return to the seat of the No. 14, but it has since turned into a whirlwind of controversy.
NASCAR has fined the three-time series champion $35,000 for disparaging comments he made on Wednesday. Series officials cited the member conduct guidelines section of the NASCAR rule book when announcing the penalty.
With the infraction being stated as taking place yesterday, that can only be Stewart's rant regarding NASCAR's controversial lug nut policy, which has been a major topic of discussion this week.
At the beginning of the 2015 season, NASCAR no longer required teams to secure five lug nuts to each wheel during a pit stop. Now teams police themselves and have lately been taking larger gambles, pushing the envelope in the pursuit for faster stops.
What he said
During an event for sponsor Mobil 1, Stewart slammed the powers that be for allowing teams to "play games with safety to win races."
“I guarantee you that envelope is going to keep getting pushed until somebody gets hurt,” Stewart said. “And you will not have heard a rant that’s going to be as bad as what comes out of my mouth if a driver gets hurt because of a loose wheel that hurts one of them.
“With all the crap we’re going through with the safety stuff, and for (NASCAR) to sit there and sit on their hands on this one, it’s not a game you play with safety,”
NASCAR took exception with his safety-themed rant and decided to hit him with a $35,000 fine ahead of his much-anticipated return. According to the rule book, the fine could have been as high as $50,000, if they so pleased.
Under section 12.8.1.b, NASCAR can fine members for disparaging the sport and/or NASCAR's leadership, or verbal abuse of a NASCAR Official, media members, fans, and so on.
After the race weekend at Auto Club Speedway, NASCAR issued a $10,000 fine to Kyle Busch for his conduct after finishing second in a wild Xfinity race. He accused NASCAR of "fixing races," but that's not what the penalty was officially for (failing to fulfill post-race media obligations).