KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Championship contender Tony Stewart will not be penalized for cursing on live TV following practice at Kansas Speedway.
The two-time series champion was talking to Robby Gordon on pit road following a Saturday practice when he was approached by an ESPN cameraman. Unaware the camera was live, Stewart said: “What? Get ... away from me,” with an obscenity underlining his remark.
NASCAR traditionally fines drivers and docks points for cursing on TV, and series officials spent Sunday reviewing the footage to determine if Stewart should be penalized. After talking with ESPN officials, Stewart and his Joe Gibbs Racing team, NASCAR decided not to punish him.
“It’s unfortunate, but there’s a lot of other noise when you see the tape,” said spokesman Jim Hunter. “If you run it over and over, you get it. But if our viewers and ESPN’s viewers are sitting at home watching it, there’s a chance they might not have heard that.”
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NASCAR justified its decision by arguing that Stewart was not in a formal interview and didn’t know the camera was on, unlike when he cursed on ESPN following his July win at Indianapolis. That incident cost Stewart 25 points and $25,000.
Juan Pablo Montoya used a similar defense when he was caught on live television flashing his middle finger, but unlike Stewart, he was penalized.
J.D. Gibbs, president of JGR, said Stewart needs to use better judgment and be aware of his surroundings.
“I love the fact that our sport has great access. I come from the NFL and you can’t get near anybody,” Gibbs said. “At the same time, how do you balance it? What’s the right thing to do? Regardless of who’s around you, do the right thing. It’s hard.
“I thought someone was trying to interview him, and that wasn’t the case, it was just a camera with a mic on it. Tony has a right to say ‘I’m trying to have a conversation, give me a second.’ “