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The Daly Planet

Various Other Articles

A NASCAR Family Broken
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By Carol Einarsson | 09/13/2016
Category: Various Other Articles

Yes, there was a race at Richmond Saturday night. And it was a defining race as drivers were either in or out of the 2016 Chase, but let's get to the worst part of the night, because it may have been a stick of dynamite that was ignited on the track, but it was a stick of dynamite already being carried around in the pocket of Ryan Newman, waiting for just the right moment.

It was one of the most shocking moments of Live TV I've ever witnessed. And while I take notes and write this column "live" as the race is broadcast, this last part has me two days removed. It's Monday and I'm still consumed with troubling thoughts about what we saw Saturday night -- what we HEARD Saturday night -- in the very upsetting words Ryan Newman chose to use. I won't transcribe it verbatim, but if you saw it, you likely watched wide-eyed, almost in horror. Did he say that? Did I hear that right?

"I guess he thought he was in a sprint car again and doesn't know how to control his anger."

"Other than  him just being bi-polar and having anger issues."

"Google Tony Stewart. You'll see all kinds of things he's done... He's quite the guy."

Maybe most troubling was the level of calm precision with which Ryan Newman sliced up Tony Stewart's character using words that seemed almost rehearsed. Words like that only come from one place, and it's a deep emotional place where there's been great hurt. Watching Newman say so many ugly things in such a controlled manner, incinerating what has been one of the most lovely friendships we've seen in the sport, it was evident there was far, far more to this story than an on-track grievance. This was personal in a way that he had to know could be life-altering for his former friend. Sometimes there is damage done with words that can never be undone - can never be repaired.

"In a sprint car again and doesn't know how to control his anger."

Ryan Newman may as well have called Kevin Ward's family, requested the presence of a judge and jury, asked for the meeting to be transcribed for the court record, and then admitted that he thinks Tony killed a kid at a race track, in anger. THAT was the potency of the words spoken, and there is no doubt that Ryan Newman knew it. His tirade was measured and effective. In all the time passed since that tragic accident, Tony has (seemingly) been supported by all the drivers in NASCAR - those that know him best. And there has been a unity among them -- or has there been?

We've all witnessed the Tony of past -- hot-headed, angry Tony; the guy that hates the media; the one who slaps recorders out of interviewer's hands; the Tony who was ordered to anger management classes as part of his continued employment; the Tony that spewed such ugliness at Darrell Waltrip on live TV -- it's all very well documented.  But we've seen growth, we thought. We've witnessed maturity, and seen the seeds planted by Joe Gibbs come to fruition in Tony's character. We knew this new Tony was different. Still rough around the edges, but when we'd see glimpses of old Tony, it seemed more like a teddy bear that was just cranky for having missed his morning coffee. His outbursts were benign and could even be amusing in a curmudgeon kind of way.

"In a sprint car again and doesn't know how to control his anger."

Will those words end up as part of a court document as civil suits continue and Tony's motives and character are questioned? I can't see how they wouldn't.

So what went wrong? What soured so badly between these men that were great friends? They bucked the system together, and seemed to jump out of the NASCAR mold to go off and drive on a team together for the purposes of having fun again. We watched two guys who were successful in the sport, join together as teammates and race the way they wanted to -- just because they loved racing. They were as close, it appeared, as brothers -- a tight-knit family.

There was a moment I witnessed in May of 2014 at Kansas. On one side, with arms crossed, resting on the hood of Ryan Newman's car with a gentle, adoring smile, was Tony Stewart. The object of his gaze was a pair of sisters who were on the other side of the car, looking at him with joy on their faces, Ryan Newman's daughters. It was the most loving moment I'd ever seen at a race track, and it was one that I tried to capture with a camera. I had to accept, though, that no image could ever capture the feeling of love that I was witnessing. It was a side of Tony that fans and the media rarely see.

But here we are, two days removed from what we all saw Saturday night, and I'm still feeling shock at having watched one man so emotionally hurt by another that he launched a verbal assault as potent as if we'd watched him sit and cut a brother out of a whole album of family photos.

Does this all come back to Ryan Newman's release from SHR, or is there more to it? Is it a more recent hurt? I don't know, and quite frankly, I'm not sure I want to know. I just want it fixed. Like a kid sitting at the top of the stairs witnessing an ugly marital fight between parents, I want it fixed. But like that same kid who hears the words spoken of divorce, I'm not sure it ever can be mended. And that leaves me very, very sad.

NASCAR, for me, has always been about the stories more than the racing. It's always been about the families. Romance and children; brotherhood and extended family.  It's the relational dynamic that exists and is ever-changing, but that we can always count on. Will brothers disagree? Sure. Will there be uncomfortable moments at the Thanksgiving dinner table? Of course! It's a family, and that's only natural. But sometimes there's a moment that changes the family forever and leaves a wake of brokenness, a fracture that can never be forgotten.

Twenty years from now, we'll still ask one another, "Remember that night at Richmond?" And there will follow a sad, slow nod of the head... Yeah, we'll remember this one for always.



09/12/2016 4:11 pm (1)
When I heard what Ryan said I too thought "Did I just hear right?" After watching a replay later there was no mistaking it.
a different Bill
09/12/2016 6:37 pm (2)
When I heard Ryan go off, my immediate thought was "He's been saving that anger for a while."
09/13/2016 1:04 am (3)
I got a pit in my stomach when I saw that. I thought it was cruel. Anger is one thing, but that went way beyond that. You explained how I felt exactly.
Bill B
09/13/2016 6:02 am (4)
I was stunned that Ryan would say what he said in that interview as well. I thought it was pretty low of Ryan to go there.

On the other hand, regardless of what the truth is, he said what a lot of people have been thinking.
09/13/2016 6:22 am (5)
Funny watching the pit road pieces of families and "Uncle Tony". We always said watching Tony with Newman's kids, that will turn on a dime, as Tony turns on a dime. We laugh at Delana always promoting Keelan and "Uncle Moke" We laugh at how long that will last. It will last as long as Tony's temperament and patience allows. People always want to give Tony the "Awwwww Poor Tony" routine as if he is ALWAYS misunderstood and marginalized.. This article while heartfelt well, what does it matter. The problem is always Stewart, documented, and I would think Newman knows more than Carol or others. Did Newman say something horrible? Perhaps on your perception, but damn he did not say anything that most of us have though, do think..despite it being the Great Tony Stewart! Family is family and that we must deal with. But it seems with the NASCAR TEAM and the hype that they want you to think all is well all the time and just best friend always, I don't buy into that for a minute. It is a business, a boss and employee, and thing ebb and flow, fair or not.
09/13/2016 7:15 am (6)
Really don't have a dog in the fight but Stewart has a well documented history of anger management. Has he done good things off the track? Yes, but in the track is a different story and a different Tony. There he is a spoiled little rotten brat if he doesn't get his way. I am really surprised this year that the way he is running that he hasn't exploded. You know it was close when his crew chief said that we must be getting better, this is the first time we have been called to the hauler this year. Will the sport miss the good Tony? Yes, but most likely they won't miss the bad Tony that goes off on occasion and you just never know when that will be. BYW, those comments came from someone that knows him very well.
09/13/2016 12:27 pm (7)
Over the last 18 seasons I've thought Tony pretty much had a lock on comments made when he should have bitten his tongue. I was wrong, Tony is an amateur compared to Ryan. Ryan dug himself a pretty big hole, and he might bring Tony with him as far as the Ward family goes. How ironic...
09/13/2016 1:51 pm (8)
On the flip side, as soon as Ryan's words were out, I was wondering if Tony could sue him?
Mallards Motorsports
09/13/2016 2:30 pm (9)
Ryan's comments were so unexpected and harsh my initial reaction is there is more to this story than we know; maybe something involving Ryan's family who knows but I can't think of what else it could be.

Ryan's leaving SHR was announced over 3 years ago - would Ryan hang out with Tony all this time all the while harboring evil thoughts? Doesn't seem likely.

Was he mad about missing the chase? He was a longshot anyway so I don't see the connection there either.

Perhaps most strange of all was Tony's reaction (from ESPN via Jayski): "As far as the harsh comments, Stewart said Newman was in a pressure-filled situation. "It's a stressful night for him," Stewart said. "He was trying to make the Chase. It's a stressful moment. He's going to say whatever he's going to say." The two drivers had been friends. "I'd say by that he probably doesn't want to be friends right now," Stewart said. "It's up to him"...

So after all that Tony is the one seemingly leaving the door open? Or is it a calculated response hoping to not escalate and keep the whole issue in the news?

One of the strangest incidents I've ever witnessed in 35 years of NASCAR viewing.

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