Sunday, July 11, 2004


Tony Stewart won this week's race at Chicagoland Speedway, but the victory is overshadowed by controversy. Coming off a restart about halfway through the race, Stewart jumped from third to first as the green flag dropped. He drove straight through race-leader Kasey Kahne, sending the rookie hard into the wall in front of the rest of the field. The mishap ended Kahne's day and collected several other top contenders, including Dale Earnhardt, Jr. This is not the first time that Stewart has flagrantly wrecked Kahne this year. Kahne's crew chief, Tommy Baldwin, took a trip down to Stewart's pit to tell Stewart's team his point of view on the matter. Then a brawl broke out in the pits between the two crews. When the dust cleared, there were no serious injuries.

Jimmie Johnson finished second, and his teammate, Jeff Gordon overcame several difficulties to notch a fourth place finish. Earnhardt limped to a finish outside of the top twenty. The top six positions in the championship standings remained unchanged.

Next week there is no race. That gives NASCAR plenty of time to figure out an appropriate punishment for Tony Stewart. A fine is almost guaranteed, but fines have proven ineffective with Stewart in the past. For this reason, several people are calling for a suspension for Tony Stewart. I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of a suspension. Harsh penalties with undefined guidelines can cause serious credibility problems for NASCAR. On the other hand, fines have not been an effective behavior modification tool.