Stewart defends blocking stance, stating Talladega is different than CaliforniaBy Ashley McCubbin
Blocking. It has become the topic of discussion after Tony Stewart voiced his displeasure with Joey Logano a couple weeks ago at Auto Club Speedway. Stewart wasn’t pleased with Logano’s block on a late race restart. The result was Stewart fuming after the race, ensuing in some comments towards Logano.
In return, Roger Penske, Logano’s boss, had some words to say about Stewart…
“I’ve watched him from the spotter’s stand quite a bit, and I think Stewart is one of the best in the business at blocking,” Penske said. “Anyone is going to protect the bottom (lane). I think his comments are unwarranted, quite honestly. I think we should move on.”
One of the popular blocks that Penske also referred to was the move that Stewart made at Talladega late in the race. Stewart threw a block on Michael Waltrip for the lead, which resulted in a multi-car wreck involving most of the field.
“I fessed up and I owned up to what I did at Talladega,” he said. “It’s the last lap of the race. I could have just sat there and just stayed in my line and watched 20 cars go blowing by me or I could sit there and try to pick up the faster line and make that line push me. I made a mistake in doing that, but I think it’s ridiculous to compare Talladega last fall to what happened 15 laps to go at the end of the race on a restart.”
Stewart also said that blocking at Auto Club Speedway is different than blocking at Daytona and Talladega, due to the position the drivers are put in.
“It’s disappointing that they don’t understand the sport any better than that, but there is a huge difference between the two,” he added. “I don’t like blocking. I never have, I never will. It’s our jobs as drivers to go out there and try to pass people. That is what racing is about.”
He added that blocking wasn’t there 10 years ago and now it’s common for drivers to block one another.
“It started at Sonoma, people were blocking into turn 11,” Stewart continued. “Then it was turn 11 and turn 7, now it’s Martinsville. People will sit there and block down the straightaway to get to the bottom so they don’t get hung out. It’s just something that is getting worse.”
In speaking of the difference between restrictor plate tracks and intermediate tracks, Stewart added that on the restrictor plate tracks, drivers have to do it because they can’t get away from each other.
“It’s not so much that you are trying to block as much as you are trying to make that guy that you are trying to get in front of push you,” Stewart explained. “We don’t have the luxury of running on our own there. You have to have somebody pushing you. So if there is a line coming you want that faster line to pick you up and push you.”
Stewart’s explaination goes back to what Earnhardt Jr. said early last week about blocking. He echoed the thoughts that you just need to give him race to run.
“You’ve got to give me somewhere to run,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “You can’t just run me up into the fence. You’ve got to give me a lane. You’ve got to give me — if you give me a reasonable amount of racetrack to race on, then I really can’t complain in regards to what you’re trying to do to maintain the position.”
With Stewart saying that you can’t get away from each other on the restrictor plates, you have to block because there is no other room around the race track to work with as you’re stuck together. However, at other tracks, like Auto Club Speedway, you can get away from each other, resulting in everybody having room to race and blocking not being something that, according to Stewart, should be common practice.
For discussion purpose, let’s look back earlier this year with Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In a sense, Kenseth was blocking Kahne by stealing Kahne’s line, running it lap after lap so that way Kahne would have to find another way by. Now was that blocking? Yes. But was it okay? Well, nobody complained about it and that was because Kahne had race track to run in. Kahne could run higher than Matt, or lower, but couldn’t run that particular line.
If you look at Logano’s block on Stewart, Stewart could have gone lower, but would have been in the grass. That against the blocking code, so to speak, and as a result, caused some anger.
So is there a proper etiquette? Stewart says that there doesn’t seem to be one as nobody can agree on one thing.
“The drivers have always set the etiquette, but when we are all divided on it, it’s kind of confusing to know what we should be doing and what we shouldn’t be doing,” he said.
Stewart was asked if NASCAR should set the etiquette, in which he replied that NASCAR shouldn’t be put in that position.
“We should be able to handle it on our own,” he said. “As drivers get younger and younger and come in they come in with their own set of ideas. I just know how it would have been 12 or 14 years ago if I would have tried to do that on a restart I know what would have happened.”
In looking at everything, I turn this over to you guys – what do you guys think? Is blocking okay to do? When does it cross the line? Do you think Stewart has a good reason?